Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Extra Billing for Eye Drops Banned in Quebec: A Victory in the Fight against Health System Erosion?

The Quebec government has just announced that it will pay for supplementary fees charged by private clinics for giving drops used to combat macular degeneration. The fees charged by Opthamologists working in private clinics have been as high as $250 a month, when the cost of the drug used itself is nearer $15.

It certainly is no coincidence that this comes the week after a group of patients filed to start a formal class action against doctors charging the fees. Eleven other instances of systematique extra-billing by Quebec doctors are currently under investigation to see if they violate the Quebec law governing health services. Under it, doctors are allowed to charge patients fees only for three things: drugs, bandages and anesthetics. Their fees are supposed to be paid directly by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec, Quebec's health agency.

Is this a victory over extra-billing? Hard to tell. Certainly charging extra for services given in private clinics is a battle field, which is likely to become bloodier as the provinces and the federal government renegotiate funding arrangements between now and 2014.

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