BC government taking action on illegal medicare fees
Attempted crack down at some for-profit clinics.
March 12, 2009 — Nurses are pleased the provincial government finally appears to be trying to take action against private for-profit medical clinics which are breaking laws that protect patients from fees for services that are covered by public health insurance.
The government's action — revealed in a statement of defense and counterclaim to a lawsuit launched by profit-driven clinic entrepreneurs — follows years of pressure from the BC Nurses' Union, which launched its own legal action in 2005 to press Victoria to enforce BC's Medicare Protection Act and the Canada Health Act. The statement of defense shows the government is attempting to gain access to some clinic records that would show unlawful billing practices.
Last December, BCNU supported a group of patients who filed their own BC Supreme Court action against the government, after they were charged fees at private clinics for medicare-insured services. That case is set to proceed to court on May 11.
"It's certainly gratifying that the government now appears prepared to take some of the necessary steps to ensure the laws protecting medicare are respected in this province," says BCNU president Debra McPherson. BCNU is considering whether to intervene in the clinics' case.
The clinics claim they have a constitutional right to require patients to pay for services that are covered by medicare.
"We reject these profit-driven schemes. British Columbians and all Canadians have the right to receive timely healthcare services under medicare without being forced to pay facility fees or user charges to receive that care. Our legal case and our support for the patients' case are about holding the government to account for allowing our public healthcare system to be eroded by illegal billing by these for-profit operators."
The government's statement of defense shows it wants a court order to allow inspectors to enter some of the for-profit centres to inspect records. "This is exactly what our court action and the patients' action asked the government to do. It is encouraging that Victoria has agreed to take this initiative at least with respect to some clinics," McPherson says.
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Posted: March 25, 2009
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