Image Credit: Flickr.

Overbilling concerns spark audits at three B.C. health clinics

Financial reviews stem from worries over integrity of public health-care system

With the blessing of the federal government, B.C. is putting three health clinics under the microscope amid long-standing concerns about overbilling and the integrity of the country’s public health-care system.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said her department reached an agreement with B.C. to audit the three clinics in hopes of rooting out the practice of extra-billing for medically necessary care, a violation of the Canada Health Act.

“The audit will determine the extent to which extra-billing and user fees have been a barrier to accessible care for people in British Columbia,” Philpott said in a statement Thursday.

Philpott’s newly appointed B.C. counterpart, former NDP leader Adrian Dix, said he strongly supports the audit agreement, which was negotiated under the province’s previous Liberal government.

“We have to act to ensure that access to medical care in B.C. is based on need and not on an individual’s ability to pay,” Dix said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“That is the reason the law exists and that is something that has been fundamental to Canada’s health-care system for a long time and is something we strongly support.”

Health Canada and the province decided to proceed with the audits in March, he said, noting that a considerable amount of planning has flowed from that decision.

“The results of the audit may have consequences … but the audits haven’t been completed yet so commenting on conclusions that haven’t been drawn would be incorrect and unfair,” he said. “We are not assuming the results of the audits.”

The Canada Health Act, which imposes conditions on the provinces and territories in exchange for health care funding, prohibits so-called extra billing or user charges for services that are deemed medically necessary.

Once extra-billing or user charges are confirmed, a dollar-for-dollar deduction from that region’s federal health transfer payment is required.

Some $204,145 was deducted from B.C.’s March 2016 transfer payments as a result of extra-billing and user charges for insured health services that were levied at private clinics in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Extra-billing occurs when a medical practitioner charges an insured patient who receives a covered health service an additional sum over and above what is paid for by a provincial or territorial insurance plan.

Questions about the public health-care system in B.C. have also been raised in a high-profile court case involving Dr. Brian Day of the Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver.

In the lawsuit, launched in 2010, Day is challenging B.C.’s ban on the purchase of private insurance for medically necessary services covered by the public system, arguing it forces patients to endure long wait times that can exacerbate their health problems.

READ MORE: Debate over private healthcare in B.C. heads to court next week

The federal government is also engaged in the Cambie case, which it believes could have important implications for public health care across Canada.

Dix said ”some of the principles” being defended by the government in the case are similar to the questions at play in the audits.

“It is what the Medical Services Commission in B.C. and the ministry of health are defending in that case,” he said.

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Highway 19A reopened north of Qualicum Beach

Repair work completed 48 hours after Sunday washout near Cook Creek Road

Parksville council OKs provisional budget

$5,000 grant to museum added to 2018 budget

RDN urged to address air quality issues now

Parksville mayor suggests ban on woodstoves and fireplaces

Qualicum Beach council debates outsourcing garbage pickup

Vote on garbage collection system deferred

High winds cancel slew of BC Ferries sailings

Travel to and from Victoria and Vancouver as well as Northern Gulf Islands affected

Views in The NEWS, Nov. 21

We asked: When do you start decorating for Christmas?

Vigil held for woman whose remains were found on Shuswap farm

Family and friends remember Vernon resident Traci Genereaux and along with five other missing women

Brewers create anti-fascist ale

Not For Nazis Nut Brown Ale made in the Shuswap will be ready in time for Christmas

Sandbags now available for mid-Island residents in low areas

Flooding reported in French Creek, Coombs, Qualicum River areas

LETTER: Jumbo Valley is part of Ktunaxa territorial claim

Ktunaxa Nation Council responds to Tom Fletcher column

3,800-plant grow-op busted on First Nation reserve

Three men face charges after RCMP bust a large drug operation on the Soowahlie Reserve near Chilliwack

VIDEO: Government approves funding of $750,000 drug for B.C. woman

Approval comes one day after province announces funding for Soliris on a case-by-case basis

B.C. boy’s social media bid to get levidrome in the Oxford dictionary goes viral

‘It’s been five weeks and has totally blown up today.’

Whistler venues could see 2026 Olympic action

Calgary is looking to cut down on costs

Most Read