Doctors plan lawsuit over province’s medicare billing cuts
New Brunswick Medical Society criticizes Health Minister Ted Flemming’s negotiating tactics
The New Brunswick Medical Society will launch a legal challenge against the Alward government’s decision to cut the amount doctors can bill medicare for services.
The medical society announced its decision to fight the budgetary decision in court during a news conference in Fredericton on Wednesday.
The organization, which represents the province’s doctors, said it believes the provincial government’s decision to cut medicare billing funds goes against a signed agreement it has with the government.
Officials say they will file their challenge "imminently."
Dr. Robert Desjardins, the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said the board’s decision was unanimous.
"The decision that we have unfortunately taken to go to court to have our agreement respected is unanimous among the representatives on our board, which again represents everyone in the province, and without any dissension," he said.
"So why is there this kind of disinformation about membership disagreement with us? Divide to conquer, I presume."
Flemming ready to meet 'anywhere, anytime'
In March, Finance Minister Blaine Higgs announced funding for doctors who bill medicare for each service will be cut by $18.8 million to $425 million and capped at that amount for two years.
The cap will be calculated quarterly and if a doctor goes over, the amount will be clawed back in the next quarter.
Desjardins took direct aim at Health Minister Ted Flemming’s negotiation tactics. He said Flemming presented an ultimatum on medicare fees at a February meeting and when the doctors demurred, the health minister "stormed out" after 12 minutes, according to Desjardins.
Flemming said in March the medical society’s executive has a "disconnect" with its members and he said the executive told him to "stick it."
Desjardins said Flemming is "more interested in having a headline than telling the truth" when he describes the society’s willingness to negotiate.
The health minister told the legislature on Wednesday that he is happy to sit down and talk with the province’s doctors anytime.
"Our door is open. This isn't our choice. We don't want to do it this way. We want to do it in a collaborative way and we are asking the medical society to help us," Flemming said.
"And we stand ready, able, willing, anywhere, anytime, anyplace to sit down with the medical society and save health care in New Brunswick."