The federal health minister is warning provinces not to charge Canadians fees for “medically necessary” care, including telemedicine and some private services, in a new letter released Friday.
“There is evidence that residents are paying out of pocket to access diagnostic services such as ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans – services that should be available free of charge,” said Health Minister Jean- Yves Duclos, in a press release.
“This is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”
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He also noted in the letter that he was “very concerned” about the increase in the number of patients being charged for “medically necessary” services and that, whether provided virtually or in person, they should be available free of charge.
Duclos says he plans to clarify expectations in a letter of interpretation attached to the Canada Health Act, which sets out the standards of care Canadians should be able to receive under the public health care system, no matter where they live. .
It will also deduct a total of $82 million in Canada health transfers from the provinces on “charges imposed on patients in 2020-21, for medically necessary services that should be available to patients free of charge.”
This includes more than $76 million in deductions under the Diagnostic Services Policy, which states that patients should not be charged for medically necessary diagnostic services, such as MRIs and CT scans.
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Another $6 million will also be deducted for other services provided at private surgical clinics and for access to abortion.
Duclos said the federal government is reducing out-of-pocket spending on private care “by emphasizing virtual care and other medically necessary services that Canadians are asked to pay for.”
Duclos has sent letters to all provinces and territories expressing concern about a recent increase in reports of patient charges for medically necessary services.
“The purpose of the Canada Health Act (CHA) has never been to impose penalties, but rather to ensure that patients are not billed for insured services that they have already paid for with their taxes,” he said in a statement.
“If a province or territory allows patients to be billed for medically necessary health services, a mandatory deduction must be taken from the jurisdiction’s TCS payments. »
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