Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette is making good on a promise to abolish most auxiliary fees for health care services. The ban goes into effect on Jan. 26.
Barrette announced last September that the province would end most of the user fees patients have been compelled to pay at doctors' offices, for everything from nasal drops to ultrasounds.
He denied at that time he was reacting to pressure from his federal counterpart.
In a letter dated Sept. 6, Health Minister Jane Philpott warned that her government was prepared to reduce transfer payments if Quebec continued to allow doctors to charge auxiliary fees for procedures covered by the provincial health plan.
Barrette has brushed off criticism from specialists, saying he was committed to making the health care system more accessible.
"The public is pleased about this announcement. They are getting what they wanted," Barrette told CBC News.
"They wanted to not pay extra fees for a public service."
Health care watchdog promises vigilance
The health care watchdog group Right for Health, based out of the Pointe–Saint-Charles Community Clinic, says it will be watching how the abolition of fees unfolds.
Genevieve McCready and other members of the group launched an online registry to keep tabs on illegal and abusive billing practices in Quebec's medical clinics.
McCready said she's concerned that while fees associated with the provincial public health insurance plan (RAMQ) are to be eliminated, some practices aren't covered by the new rules, such as extra billing to fill out medical forms, which can cost as much as $80.
She said Right for Health worries doctors will find new ways of getting around the restriction on auxiliary fees.
"We will be monitoring and receiving testimonies from people in the next few weeks," McCready said.
New fee structure
As of Jan. 26, the only other extra fees doctors will be allowed to charge will be for the transport of biological samples from a private clinic or specialist, to a maximum of $15 for a blood sample and $5 for all other kinds of samples.
Some examples of fees which are to be abolished include:
- Eye drops: $20 to $300.
- Inserting an IUD: $125 to $200.
- Instruments and medication for a colonoscopy: $500.