Ottawa warns provinces on private health care IG News

IG news Update,

The federal government is notifying provinces and territories that Ottawa is keeping a close eye on the growing creep of for-profit health care across this country.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos sent warnings to provinces on Thursday, alerting them to potential clawbacks in federal health transfer payments should patients continue to pay out-of-pocket for medically necessary care.

“I am deeply concerned by the recent increase in patient charges for medically necessary services,” Duclos wrote in letters sent to provincial and territorial health ministers.

“It is important that access to medically necessary services, whether provided in person or virtually, remains based on medical need and free of charge.”

The warning comes as private companies, including those providing virtual care, are increasingly filling gaps in a strained health care system struggling to recover from the years-long pandemic.

According to a senior government official who spoke to the Star, one of the federal government’s main concerns is virtual health care companies charging patients to see a physician or nurse practitioner.

“We believe this is going against the Canada Health Act,” the official said, adding that the federal government is not against virtual care. “We believe that patients should not have to pay out of pocket for this.”

In a statement released Friday morning, Duclos pointed to evidence of patients paying for medically necessary care, including diagnostic imaging, saying such services “should be accessible at no cost.”

“This is not acceptable and will not be tolerated,” Duclos said.

In an interview with the Star in February, Duclos indicated he would deal with breaches of the Canada Health Act after federal health transfer deals are completed.

He told the Star’s Althea Raj that the conditions for Canadians paying for virtual health care services and people traveling to other provinces and fast paying for medically necessary surgeries were “loopholes” and “of great concern”.

Duclos also said that health professionals charging for medically necessary services through expanded scope of practice was another example of how for-profit care is creeping into the public system.

Duclos said at the time, “Now, it’s not all right, it’s something we’re very conscious of and will be taking action on in the near future.”

In letters to provincial health ministers, Duclos acknowledged the benefits of health care reform, including virtual care, telemedicine and health professionals working on an expanded scope of practice. But he added that these advances have resulted in “the emergence of new patient charges to access medically necessary care that would otherwise be covered if provided in-person by a physician.”

Duclos said he plans to clarify the new terms for virtual health services in a separate Canada Health Act interpretation paper. He said this would be done in collaboration with provincial and regional health ministers.

He said that as the health care system “continues to evolve” governments must ensure that “it remains true to the spirit and intent of the Canada Health Act.”

“Canadians should be able to access these services without paying out-of-pocket, regardless of where they live in the country or how they receive medically necessary care,” Duclos said.

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