Ottawa to press provinces on user fees at health ministers meeting next week

Ottawa to press provinces on user fees at health ministers meeting next week
From CBC - October 13, 2017

The federal government has quietly reimbursedQuebec the almost $10 million it withheld from the province two years ago as punishment for charging patients extra fees to access health services in the province.

But the move has not softened Quebec's position or compelled the province to admitit did anything wrong in allowing doctors' offices to charge as little as $20 for eye drops or as much as $500 for instruments and medication for a colonoscopy.

"I am sure that we have done absolutely nothing that was against the CHA [Canada Health Act] in the past. We did things that were within CHA. And I think it simply reflects the fact that they agree with us on that," QuebecHealth Minister Gatan Barrette told CBC News.

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, however, sees the repayment differently. Sheissueda statement Thursday saying her department is satisfied that Quebec decided to fall in line with the law.

"We are pleased with Quebec's decision to ban user charges, and note the actions of the government of Quebec to ensure Quebecers have access to health care based on need, and not ability or willingness to pay," the statement said.

In Petitpas Taylor's new mandate letter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asks her to "make absolutely clear that extra-billing and user fees are illegal under Canada's public medicare system."

It goes on to say Petitpas Taylor must "develop policies in collaboration with the provinces and territories to improve verification and recourse mechanisms when instances of non-compliance arise."

Reporting user fees

In a statement,PetitpasTaylor's office said that while the legislation is clear, the "levers to enforce it are weak" and up until now it has been left to the provinces to inform the federal government on its own about user fees.

"The current reporting mechanisms are not strong. Moreover, there is no incentive to encourage provinces and territories to report accurately and tackle the issue of patient charges," the statement said.

The topic is expected to come up when Petitpas Taylor meets her provincial colleagues for the first time next week.

Quebec's auditor general reported that the provincial government collected between $9.9 million and $18 million in extra fees from patients in 2015.

The Saskatchewan question

Health funding remains an issue


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