UPDATE: B.C. imposes harsh fines on double billing for medical services

Practitioners could face fines of up to $20,000

The province is cracking down on medical practitioners double billing for services already covered by B.C.’s Medical Services Plan, introducing new fines worth tens of thousands of dollars.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the move brings into force outstanding sections of the 2003 Medicare Protection Amendment Act. Double billing is already illegal, Dix said, just not properly enforced.

“I am taking action today to protect our public healthcare system, and to correct the previous government’s failure to enforce the law, something done at the expense of patients,” he said.

READ: B.C. announces $175 million to cut hip, knee surgery wait times

A 2017-18 health ministry audit found three private clinics had overbilled for services by $15.9 million. Last month, the federal government cut the amount from B.C.’s health funding, after Health Canada reviewed the audit.

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said that if B.C. took “corrective measures, we certainly would be in a position to reimburse them.

“I certainly don’t want to be taking money away from provinces and health services,” Taylor told Black Press Media.

Three audits are already underway for the 2018-19 fiscal year, and three others are on the way.

Taylor said she has spent the past few months speaking with health ministers across the country, with B.C. not being the only province to receive fines.

“We want to make sure that Canadians have access to services that they need,”

“They should not have to be paying twice for their services.”

READ: B.C. government to increase access to MRI exams

Now, a medical practitioner’s first doublebilling conviction will cost $10,000. The second offence will cost $20,000, and they may be un-enrolled from the Medical Services Plan, meaning they won’t be able to bill the province their work and get paid.

The new rules don’t affect patients paying for procedures not covered by provincial health care.

Anyone who has been overbilled will be refunded by the Medical Service Commission.

Edith MacHattie, the co-chair of the BC Healthcare Coalition, said that she was happy to see government finally enforcing its own laws.

MacHattie said that the coalition heard from patients who felt like they had no other choice but to pay clinic for the procedures they needed.

“Clinics are taking advantage of patients who are in pain and desperate,” she said.

“People are overpaying to the tune of thousands of dollars.”

The most common overbilling targets simple, common procedures such as orthopaedic and cataract surgeries, MacHattie noted.


@katslepian

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