The BC Government is bringing into force outstanding sections of the 2003 Medicare Protection Amendment Act to crack down on extra billing for health care that should be provided at no cost.
Health Minister Adrian Dix says three private clinics were audited finding significant extra billing violations estimated for the 2015-2016 fiscal year at $15.9 million dollars.
He calls it unacceptable and says that some people and organizations are breaking healthcare laws creating an unfair system for patients, and putting at risk those same patients by reducing federal funding.
“In March 2018 federal health funding to BC was reduced in the last fiscal year by the same amount. Just to put that into context that would pay for 53,000 MRIs, for hip and knee surgeries in the thousands.”
“The Act which passed unanimously by the Legislative assembly in 2003, was subsequently not proclaimed and left enforcement measures sitting on the books since that time.”
“We’ve had this situation of don’t ask and don’t tell ever since.”
Sections of the Medicare Protection Amendment Act, 2003 that are coming into force, and new actions that can be taken by the Medical Services Commission, include:
- Making it an offence to extra bill for services insured under the Medicare Protection Act or the Hospital Insurance Act
- Clarifying that selling priority access to medically necessary care is extra billing;
- Providing new protections for beneficiaries and establishing that they are not liable to pay for extra billing charges
- Creating consequences for practitioners, or others, such as privately owned medical clinics, who have extra-billed beneficiaries
- Ensuring that all diagnostic facilities, including non-approved diagnostic facilities, cannot charge beneficiaries for diagnostic services if the services would be covered under MSP.
Government has also authorized the Medical Services Commission to refund beneficiaries in cases of extra billing and set out clear consequences for breaking those rules. Any person who extra bills may now be required to refund the fee paid, face fines of up to $10,000 for a first offence, and $20,000 for a second offence. Practitioners may also be de-enrolled from MSP, making them unable to bill the public health-care system.
The changes according to Dix do not stop the current practice of health authorities partnering with private providers or private clinics, as long as the services are publicly funded, and patients are not required to pay out of pocket. They also do not prevent patients from choosing to pay for services, such as cosmetic procedures, that are not medically necessary MSP benefits.