BC Greens call for immediate release of inquiry into Telus Health paid program
The leader of BC’s Green Party is calling on the provincial government to immediately release the findings of a watchdog’s investigation into a Telus Health program.
Sonia Furstenau is urging Health Minister Adrian Dix to release the Medical Services Commission’s ‘report’ on whether the private pay program has contributed to a ‘two-tier’ healthcare system that allows some patients to queue while opening their wallets.
“As nearly a million British Columbians are left without a family doctor, private companies are rushing to offer health services for a fee,” she said in a news release Tuesday.
“British Columbians need to know that these private health care providers do not allow line bypassing or other illegal practices as part of our universal health care system. »
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According to Furstenau, Dix received the report from the watchdog for almost six weeks.
In an interview, Dix said the Medical Services Commission was conducting a review, not a report, and would rule « in the coming months. »
“This is a review and they have the authority to take action pursuant to this review,” he told Global News. « Obviously the public will be informed of the action if it is taken. »
He was concerned about possible problems with the program long before the Greens raised it, he added.
« That’s what we call following the law in BC. My job is to make sure the medical protection law is strong enough. »
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Earlier this year, Dix confirmed that his department had asked the Medical Services Commission to review whether the Telus Health LifePlus program had created a disparity in patient access to essential services. The review also examines concerns that family doctors are closing their practices and telling patients they can continue if they subscribe to Telus’ service.
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The program is a small part of the company’s healthcare offering.
In a written statement to Global News in June, Telus Health said it responded to the commission’s request in March. Its care centers aim to « relieve the burden » on BC’s healthcare system, he said, and in addition to performing an annual preventative health assessment, clients have access to healthcare professionals. healthcare, such as kinesiologists, physiotherapists, psychologists and dietitians.
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All participating physicians are independent contractors, the company explained, and choose the time to devote to the publicly funded primary care portion of their practice.
« TELUS Health does not charge for any primary care services, » wrote Sonya Lockyer, vice president of TELUS Health Centers and Pharmacy. « LifePlus program fees are strictly for the preventative care modalities listed above, which are provided by a multidisciplinary team that is not publicly funded. »
Telus Health, she added, is « fundamentally opposed » to accelerating publicly funded health services for a fee.
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The LifePlus program costs $4,600 in the first year and over $3,000 per year thereafter.
“The gaps in our healthcare system need to be filled by a government with a plan, not by companies looking for a business opportunity,” Furstenau said in the statement.
“Indeed, the crisis of family doctors has been brewing for a long time; the BC Liberals and the BC NDP bear the blame. But the responsibility to fix the problem rests with the governing party, and so far the BC NDP has done nothing meaningful about it.
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Dix said extra billing for medically necessary services is “generally” not allowed in the province and the commission can take action on complaints doctors have made for such charges. If the law is not strong enough, he added, he will make it stronger, but he does not see evidence of that to date.
“Our access to health care should not be based on your ability to pay. We are supposed to have universal health care,” he said.
In previous comments, the Minister said that since 2017, alternative payments to doctors whose services are not provided through fee-for-service models have increased from $500 million to around $750 million. That’s an increase of about 15% every year for the past three years, he said.
Dix said he and Premier John Horgan have had “important meetings” with Doctors of BC over the past few weeks to “address issues” regarding working conditions and the shortage of doctors.
— with files by Kamil Karamali and Richard Zussman
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