Action needed to stop surgery extra-billing

News release

Health minister must ban extra-billing by surgeons in private clinics, says HEU

B.C.’s largest health care union is calling on health minister Mike Farnworth to enforce the laws prohibiting private clinics from charging patients for procedures covered by Medicare.

The call comes on the heels of media reports earlier this week that say private health care booster and orthopedic surgeon Brian Day may be charging patients for publicly insured medical procedures at a private clinic in which he is a director and shareholder.

“It appears that some surgeons have declared open season on Medicare,” says Zorica Bosancic, assistant secretary-business manager of the 46,000-member Hospital Employees’ Union.

“And while we agree with Minister Farnworth that the College of Physicians and Surgeons has a role in investigating this problem,” says Bosancic, “the responsibility for enforcing the laws that protect the principles of Medicare belong to the Minister of Health.”

HEU says the health minister should launch an investigation into the practice of charging patients for procedures covered under the province’s Medical Services Plan. That investigation should include:

- an audit of surgery waiting lists for surgeons who also practice in private clinics to determine whether surgery backlogs in the public system are affected by the explosion of private surgery clinics in fields like orthopedics and ophthalmology; and

- an audit of MSP billings to determine whether surgeons who are charging patients “facility” or other fees for insured services are, at the same time, billing the public plan for the very same procedures.

“It’s important to determine whether British Columbians are waiting for health care services longer than they need to because some surgeons are dividing their time between public hospitals and for-profit surgery clinics,” says Bosancic. “And we must make sure that scarce health dollars aren’t being used to subsidize the operations of these clinics.”