Manitoba

Greater oversight proposed for doctor billing in Manitoba

The Manitoba government has introduced legislation the province’s health minister says will give greater oversight for doctor billing.

Inspectors would be appointed to audit health claims from physicians

If passed, Bill 10 would give greater oversight for doctors who bill the province for their services. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The Manitoba government has introduced legislation the province's health minister says will give greater oversight for doctor billing.

Bill 10 was reintroduced into the Manitoba Legislature Monday, which if passed into law, would bring more of the province's health-care services and agencies like the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba under the umbrella of Shared Health.

It would allow the health minister to appoint inspectors to audit health claims submitted by doctors and let the government recover fees if proper paperwork can't be provided.

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen points out how little was recovered in 2015 from doctors as reason for greater oversight. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said greater oversight is needed citing an example of how little is currently found to be made as an overpayment.

He said in 2015, the province was billed nearly $741 million by physicians and of that, only $7,000 was determined to be an overpayment.

"Seven thousand dollars recovery would represent about a one one-thousandth of all billing," the minister told reporters.

"Audit is important to test that compliance. I believe that Manitobans and doctors would agree with this."

Friesen said the vast majority of doctors in the province bill appropriately and encouraged any physicians with concerns to get in touch.

The minister said when the bill was first introduced in the spring, Doctors Manitoba expressed concern. The bill never became law after delays from opposition parties. Friesen said he remains open to dialogue on the issue.

Dr. Fourie Smith, president of Doctors Manitoba, said in a statement he had no objection to the government seeking recompense on the "few" occasions where an error in billing by a physician has occurred.

But he voiced concerns about the bill put forward by the Tories.

"Past practice shows us that auditors are prone to making errors, too, and to strip physicians of a fair dispute resolution process is unconscionable," he said. 

"It assumes a physician is guilty, and allows no path to prove his or her innocence," he said, calling on the government to make an amendment to the bill.

Bill 10 would also eliminate the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba leaving Shared Health to assume its responsibilities. It will also require health authorities to get the minister's permission before buying or accepting a donation of medical equipment that will increase operating costs.

The Manitoba Nurses' Union has previously expressed concerns about the bill arguing it doesn't address patient needs and instead focuses on the government's bottom line while giving the minister too much power.

In 2016, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk urged the government to crack down on problematic billing from doctors and said oversight was weak and lacked proper enforcement. 

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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