Quebec doctors still charging administrative fees, watchdog group says
Pointe St-Charles clinic says ban on auxiliary fees a positive, but more needs to be done
Quebec doctors are still charging patients too much for administrative services, such as filling out forms, says a Montreal watchdog group that has been monitoring billing practices.
The Pointe St-Charles Community Clinic set up an online registry last January to ensure clinics follow through on Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette's directive preventing doctors from charging patients for medical services that are covered through public health insurance.
For the most part, the ban is working, members of the clinic said at a news conference Sunday. Preliminary analysis shows that since the ban started, the billing in medical clinics for drugs and anesthetic agents has practically disappeared, the clinic said.
However, the billing of administrative fees, including filled-out forms and copies of medical files, has "continued to increase during this period," said Élise-Mercier Gouin, a member of the watchdog group Right for Health, which is headquartered at the clinic.
Many patients also reported the "exorbitant amounts" demanded for "various eye care examinations," Gouin said.
The analysis is based on a total of 90 statements recorded in the registry between January 2017, when it was set up, and October 2017.
Barrette put the ban into effect on Jan. 26, 2017, to ensure patients won't the pay extra fees, called accessory fees. The ban applied from everything everything from nasal drops to ultrasounds. It did not extend to administrative services.
Stéphane Defoy, a community organizer with the clinic, said the province's decision to scrap accessory fees was a step in the right direction to promote access to care, especially for underprivileged citizens.
But, he argued, any healthcare expenses "taken from patients' wallets must be eliminated in order to keep our public system intact."