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NL’s information and privacy commissioner rules doctor’s billing should be public

Newfoundland and Labrador’s information and privacy commissioner, Donovan Molloy, has indicated in a recent report that amounts paid to doctors through Newfoundland and Labrador’s publicly-funded Medical Care Program should be released.  Molloy highlighted, “There is no principled reason why physicians’ billings should not be subject to the same transparency as payments to employees, businesses, consultants and other parties receiving funding from government.” A 2013, NL auditor general’s report said that 142 physicians billed MCP for more than $500,000 and eight billed for more than $1 million in a single year.

Further, in response to concerns the information was personal Molloy outlined, “in the alternative, that if the information was personal information, then the physicians fall into the category of persons retained under a contract to provide services for a public body, under section 2, and therefore disclosure of their remuneration was deemed not to be an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy under subsection 40(2).”

While the ruling is likely to go to court, other provinces like Manitoba and British Columbia have disclosed doctors’ billings since 1996. With recent issue like user-fees in Quebec for medically necessary services, and the Dr. Profits cambie surgical clinic case in British Columbia, it seems that more transparency would be a good approach to protect patient’s health and medicare’s principles. As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.