Quebec's controversial health care bill passes at National Assembly

After months of talks, the National Assembly on Tuesday passed its controversial bill that will restrict access to in vitro fertilization and increase the number of patients Quebec doctors have to take on.

Bill 20 removes IVF from provincial Medicare coverage

Quebec medical doctors are expected to take on more patients under Bill 20, although the quota system has been removed from the text of the controversial legislation. (Radio-Canada)

After months of talks, the National Assembly on Tuesday passed its controversial bill that will restrict access to in vitro fertilization and increase the number of patients Quebec doctors have to take on.

It was not a unanimous decision — 63 members of the Liberal caucus voted for it, while 48 MNAs voted against it.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette tabled the bill last year.

Originally the bill proposed a patient quota for family doctors, but that was tossed out in May. However, Barrette said doctors would still have to find a way of making sure 85 per cent of Quebecers had a family doctor by 2017.

Louis Godin, president of the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec (FMOQ), said in May that the federation will introduce alternative measures to help guide family physicians and ensure they stay on track to meet the 2017 target.

Some of the attenuation measures to help boost Quebecers' access to healthcare include superclinics and a guarantee that anyone needing to see their doctor would be able to see him or her within three days.

IVF rules

The new law will also end Medicare coverage of IVF and replace it with a system of tax credits. Women who qualify for IVF would be offered tax credits based on family income.

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, seen here in the National Assembly on Oct. 7, is the architect of Bill 20. (Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot)

Those with an annual family income of less than $50,000 would receive an 80 per cent tax credit to cover the cost of treatment, while those with higher earnings could receive a credit as low as 20 per cent.

When initially introduced, the bill proposed completely barring women over the age of 42 from accessing IVF. Now, women older than that would have to pay for the assisted reproduction procedure out of their own pockets.

The new law would also better spell out the auxiliary fees doctors can charge patients to help curb abusive practices.

Barrette said in an interview with Radio-Canada that the numbers of patients registered at GMFs in the province (family medicine groups) has grown since Bill 20 was tabled.

With files from the Canadian Press