Tag Archives: Canada Health Act

CMA “national dialogue” supports expansion of Canada Health Act

The Canadian Medical Association has issued a report on its “national dialogue on health care transformation” – the results of six town halls (two in Ontario, one in Quebec, one in BC, Alberta and Nova Scotia) and its on-line consultation.

The report summarizes what the CMA heard, but makes no real recommendations.

“The message that came through most strongly from the public was the need to preserve and strengthen the current principles underpinning the Canada Health Act to ensure continued support for a universally accessible, publicly funded health care system,” the report states.

The report also made clear there was strong support for broadening the scope of the existing legislation. Various respondents spoke of the need of bringing dental care, eye care, drug coverage, long term care, home care, hospice care and care from alternate providers under the Act.

Not surprisingly, Maclean’s national editor Andrew Coyne filled the role of Chicken Little overstating the cost of health care, claiming it “is eating us alive.” Coyne claims 30 per cent efficiency can be had from reorganizing the system, but never points out where these savings would come from aside from making a pitch for more competition on pricing and decentralized funding.

When the public complained the Canada Health Act was not being enforced, Coyne invited them to vote NDP, claiming neither the Liberals or Tories would enforce the Act.

Dr. Danielle Martin of Canadian Doctors for Medicare said a public, single payer system is the best way to control health care costs, noting the cost of physician and hospital costs have been remarkably stable while drug costs have been the “Pac-Man” eating its way through provincial budgets.

The CMA concluded that Canadians suffering from unacceptable wait times, crowded hospitals and a lack of physician and other services were all signs the “once proud” system was under distress. While the majority felt underfunding was part of this scenario, others, like Coyne, believed the system was adequately funded but needed to be better organized.

Click here to download the full CMA report.

New Ontario hotline for complaints about extra billing

Have you been illegally charged for a public health service that should have been insured under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)?

Yesterday the Ontario government launched a phone line and e-mail address for complaints about extra billing.

In its release, the government says there were 189 new investigations into illegal billing in 2010/11. Since 2007, about $1.3 million in illegal billing has been recovered either through reimbursements or cancellation of charges. This is on a $47 billion a year public health system.

For the average patient, figuring out whether their service should be covered or not will be a challenge, with health care providers deciding what is medically necessary and what is theoretically voluntary.

In the examples the government gives on its web site, it suggests that block fees are acceptable if payment is voluntary, does not cover insured services, and must be for a specific period of time. Users must also be given the option to pay for services that are not insured on a per-use basis.

The Ontario Health Coalition issued a release yesterday applauding the crackdown on extra billing.

“We are asking each of the provincial political party leaders to make a clear commitment to roll back the expansion of for-profit clinics and institutions, the majority of which charge patients illegal fees and undermine public Medicare in Canada,” says Natalie Mehra, Director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

Recently OPSEU raised the question of Rouge Valley Health System charging a block fee of $500 for patients in their cardiac rehab program who wish to continue past six months. The fee is not broken out by type of service, such as access to the indoor track and exercise equipment, stress tests or ongoing counselling.

Under the Canada Health Act, hospital services are insured health services. The Act defines hospital insured services as services provided to in-patients or out-patients at a hospital, if the services are medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosing or treating an injury, illness or disability. It would be difficult for a hospital to maintain that cardiac rehab is not medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health.

It is particularly difficult for Rouge to maintain these are not covered services when its new partner in the program is Lakeridge Health, which provides a year-long cardiac rehab program.

Will the government order Rouge Valley to reimburse the $500? We can only wait and see.

To access the phone line: Call 1-888-662-6613

Or e-mail complaints to: protectpublichealthcare@ontario.ca