Action to stop “wild west” of private billing paired with moves to reduce wait times means faster, more efficient care in public system, fewer patients facing unaffordable private fees
For immediate release
Vancouver - The BC Health Coalition is welcoming today’s announcement of action to protect patients and public funds from unlawful billing in BC’s private, for-profit clinics.
“For too long private clinics have taken advantage of patients in need while the province turned a blind eye,” says Rick Turner, BC Health Coalition co-chair. “BC has the second highest rate of unlawful medical billing in the country - with as many as 30 of BC’s 34 private clinics charging fees banned under the law.”
Today’s announcement of stiffer penalties for breaking medicare law and better options for patients to recover private fees paid comes as the federal government fined the province $15.9 million. The fine is an estimate of the amount collected unlawfully from patients through extra-billing in one year at just three of B.C.’s private for-profit clinics.
“The public should not have to pay for the actions of these clinics,” says Turner. “These clinics charge desperate patients high fees up to five times higher than the legal amount, a practice that disrupts the efficiency of the public system and burdens patients financially.”
“For years, BC allowed surgical and diagnostic wait lists to grow while allowing a market for private for-profit clinics, that charge patients steep unlawful private fees, to flourish,” says Edith MacHattie, BC Health Coalition co-chair.
MacHattie says the province’s new surgical and diagnostic strategy will mean shorter waits for public surgeries and MRI scans, meaning that fewer patients will feel they need to consider paying high fees at private clinics.
Turner says he is pleased the federal government is taking the issue of extra-billing seriously, and also urges the federal government to consider BC’s request to reimburse the fines in light of the substantial steps BC is now taking to deal with the problem.
For more information, please contact:
Adam Lynes-Ford, BC Health Coalition Campaigner