Health Minister Gaétan Barrette has announced an end to auxiliary fees patients pay at the doctor's office.

The announcement came during a Wednesday afternoon news conference, but more details are expected Sept. 28. The changes are scheduled to come into effect mid-January 2017.

"This illustrates our commitment to the accessibility of our healthcare network," Barrette said.

"Insured services that are offered to Quebecers will not lead to supplementary fees passed on to the people who already pay for them as citizens," he said.

Barrette said in future, the only extra fee that the doctors' office 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.        

Will it be enforced?

The Pointe–Saint-Charles Community Clinic has been pressuring the government for years to end extra fees, and its spokesman, Stéphane Defoy, is calling today's announcement "not a big win, but good news."

Defoy said he's eager to find out if it's just a theoretical end to extra billing or something more tangible.

"Will it be enforced?" Defoy asked.

"They have the power to end fees now, and don't."

Paul Brunet from the Council for the Protection of Patients is also skeptical about doctors "submitting to the law of the land."

"We will believe it when we see it," Brunet said.

Paul Brunet

Paul Brunet from the Council for the Protection of Patients said that extra fees were a clear obstacle to free and universal access to healthcare. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

Defoy added that even if fees are no longer charged for items such as medication and anesthesia, patients will still have to pay for doctors to fill out and sign forms.

"People shouldn't think that once this is put through, you can show up with your health card and not pay," Defoy said.

What will be paid for, what won't

Defoy said that a patient who needs a doctor to fill out and sign a form – for example, for the SAAQ, the province's automobile insurance board, or for a future employer – would still be expected to pay $40 to $80.

He said Quebec's health insurance board pays the doctor for a medical exam, but not for that doctor's time to fill out and sign the paperwork.

Some examples of fees which are expected to be abolished include:

  • Eye drops: $20 to $300.
  • Inserting an IUD: $125 to $200.
  • Instruments and medication for a colonoscopy: $500.

Defoy said he's looking forward to reading the complete document outlining what the ban on auxiliary fees will cover when it is released on Sept. 28.

with files from CBC's Ryan Hicks