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Win! Quebec to end user fees for medically necessary health care

Yesterday it was an announcement that Quebec will be putting an end to health accessory/user fees by early January (full detail will be available on 28 September). The change in rules will make it illegal for patients to be charged for medical services that are covered through public health insurance.

The Council of Canadians had previously supported Réseau FADOQ, along with Quebec and national health care advocates as they demanded the federal government fulfill their responsibility and enforce the Canadian Health Act (CHA). This was believed to be the first time a civil society group has asked the Federal Court to compel the federal government to apply the Canadian Health Act, their own law.  Council of Canadians National Health Campaigner, Michael Butler, has highlighted that, “It shouldn’t be necessary for the civil society to demand their government start enforcing the CHA and stop turning a blind eye to two-tier US style health care.  There doesn’t seem to be much ‘real change’, but just a continuation of the Harper government’s policies in this regard. The Council of Canadians supports FADOQ as it defends the public’s interest and the right to healthcare.”

The Minister of Health and Social Services, Gaétan Barrette, stated, “Pour être clair et donner des exemples concrets, la personne de 70 ans qui va voir l’ophtalmologue pour un examen oculaire qui nécessite des gouttes, il n’y aura pas de gouttes ni à 200 $, ni à 1 $, ni à 0,50 $, il n’y aura pas de frais. Lorsqu’un citoyen ira voir un médecin de famille pour une infiltration pour une tendinite, il n’y aura pas de frais de 50 $, de 70 $, de 25 $, de 10 $, il n’y aura pas de frais, point. C’est donc, ici, l’abolition complète des frais accessoires.” In English, the minister is highlighting that, “it will be illegal for doctors to charge patients $200 for eye drops before they undergo exams or treatments, or $150 to open their file. There won’t be fees of $50, $70, $25 or $10, there won’t be any fees, period … No more over-billing.”  This follows form a report by the provincial auditor general Guylaine Leclerc  that, “confirmed what every Quebecer who’s been to a doctor’s office already knows: Fees collected are ‘ambiguous, confusing and misunderstood.’”

Free access to medically necessary health care is the foundation of our society; our health care must be based on need and not the ability to pay.  These fees, which are extra billing, also have the affect of hitting the poor the hardest while doctors make substantial sums of extra money off the scheme.

This victory is also of significant importance with Dr Brian Day’s reckless lawsuit currently in front of the BC Supreme Court.  Dr Profit’s clinics (the private Cambie Surgery Centre and the Specialist Referral Clinic) where caught breaking the law by engaging in extra and double billing practices. A 2012 audit conducted by the B.C. government found that in just one month, Dr. Day’s clinic had illegally billed patients nearly half $1 million including $66,734 in overlapping claims where Day billed both the patient and the province.

This victory for public healthcare in Quebec and equality was a direct result of the pressure civil society has been putting on the government to stand up for patients and not profit. Now it is time to do the same in BC and stop two tiered, US-style health care from poisoning our universal medicare.

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