British Columbia’s medical watchdog investigates whether TELUS Health program creates ‘two-tier’ health care
British Columbia’s medical watchdog is examining a TELUS Health program, fearing it is contributing to a “two-tier” health care system that allows some patients to wait in line by opening their wallets.
Health Minister Adrian Dix confirmed on Wednesday that the Medical Services Commission had been asked some time ago to determine whether TELUS Health LifePlus’ private pay-as-you-go program had created a disparity in patients’ access to essential services. .
“It’s not that they charge for additional services…the question is whether or not the services have that value,” he explained. “It is essential, I think, that medically necessary services be free of user fees, because to do otherwise is to have two-tier health care and that is not acceptable.
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In a written statement, TELUS Health said it responded to the BC Medical Services Commission’s request in March. His care centers aim to “relieve the burden” on B.C.’s healthcare system, he said, and in addition to performing an annual preventative health assessment, clients have access to healthcare professionals. healthcare, such as kinesiologists, physiotherapists, psychologists and dietitians.
All participating physicians are independent contractors, the company explained, and choose how much time they spend on the publicly funded primary care portion of their practice.
“TELUS Health does not charge for any primary care services,” wrote Sonya Lockyer, vice president of TELUS Health Centers and Pharmacy. “LifePlus program fees are strictly for the preventative care modalities listed above, which are provided by a multidisciplinary team that is not publicly funded.”
TELUS Health, she added, is “fundamentally opposed” to accelerating publicly funded health services for a fee.
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Mark Winston, a beekeeping professor at Simon Fraser University, told Global News he lost his 15-year-old doctor to TELUS Health last fall. He was told he would have to enroll in the LifePlus program for $4,600 the first year and pay more than $3,000 a year thereafter, he said.
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“It was really a nightmare trying to find a new doctor or primary care practitioner,” he said. “It’s such a bad primary care system that doctors are giving up on private care systems and leaving the rest of us in the lurch.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable not participating in the universal Canadian health care system and buying my way out of a very creaky system that needs fixing.
Winston found a new doctor after several months, he added, but only through a personal connection.
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Nearly one million patients in British Columbia do not have a family doctor. Doctors of BC president Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh said privatized programs like LifePlus could be a “potential risk” to create “more broken bones.”
“I think it speaks to economy class and people who can pay for services or have some other type of access,” she explained. “What I think is very important are the principles of universal health care and attachment, but also equity.”
The province must work with doctors to build a more robust health care system, she added, that doesn’t lead to patients or doctors seeking greener pastures in another program. It must also improve working conditions and pay doctors, while reducing the paperwork required and the costs of running clinics, she said.
“Especially with the levels of moral distress and physician burnout that we’re seeing, people can’t continue to provide the kind of care they were already providing,” Dosanjh explained. “Doctors like to provide different types of care and the way they practice varies and we need to be able to provide them with a menu of compensation opportunities.”
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Dix said the province needs to simplify contract models that give doctors the ability to transition from fee-for-service models to public health care.
Since 2017, he added, alternative payments to doctors whose services are not provided through fee-for-service models have risen from $500 million to around $750 million. That’s an increase of about 15% every year for the past three years, he said.
Dix said he and the prime minister have had “important sessions” with Doctors of BC over the past few weeks to “work out the issues”.
He expects answers from the Medical Services Commission on TELUS Health’s LifePlus program before the end of June.
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