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Feds claw back $1M due to private patient charges; Sask. Ministry of Health 'deeply disappointed'

Feds claw back $1M due to private patient charges; Sask. Ministry of Health 'deeply disappointed'
Feds claw back $1M due to private patient charges; Sask. Ministry of Health 'deeply disappointed'

اخبار العرب-كندا 24: الثلاثاء 2 أبريل 2024 07:45 مساءً

Health Canada says provinces and territories that permit patient charges for medically necessary diagnostic services, like MRI and CT scans, are subject to mandatory deductions under the Canada Health Act. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Health Canada says provinces and territories that permit patient charges for medically necessary diagnostic services, like MRI and CT scans, are subject to mandatory deductions under the Canada Health Act. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The province says it's "deeply disappointed" in the federal government's decision to claw back health transfer funding related to medical imaging services in Saskatchewan.

On March 21, federal Minister of Health Mark Holland announced mandatory Canada Health Transfer deductions for some provinces for 2021 to 2022. According to Health Canada, the Canada Health Act and mandatory health transfer deductions are in place to make sure that patients do not pay out of pocket for medically necessary services.

The federal government introduced the health act reimbursement policy in 2018. The policy means that when provinces and territories take action to eliminate patient charges and the underlying circumstances that led to them, they are reimbursed the mandatory health transfer deductions.

However, Saskatchewan will not be receiving a reimbursement for 2021-2022. The deduction totals at $1 million.

The federal government deducted a total of $79 million from provinces where patients paid out of pocket during 2021-2022 for medically necessary services. It said that the majority of the deductions — over $72 million — were taken due to patient charges for diagnostic imaging services at private clinics.

In a statement to CBC, the Ministry of Health said Saskatchewan introduced private-pay MRI and CT services in the province in 2016. When private providers conduct a private-pay scan, they are then required to provide a second scan, free of charge, to a person who is waiting on the public list.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Everett Hindley said a Regina urgent care centre, an expansion of nurse practicioner services and other measures announced in Wednesday's budget will take pressure off other parts of the system.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Everett Hindley said a Regina urgent care centre, an expansion of nurse practicioner services and other measures announced in Wednesday's budget will take pressure off other parts of the system.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Everett Hindley says that the province's two-for-one private-pay system for MRI and CT services is one of many strategies the government is using to reduce wait-lists in the health-care system. He says the province will continue to do it. (CBC)

Last week Minister of Health Everett Hindley told reporters at the legislature that this system is one of many strategies the province is using to reduce wait-lists in the health-care system.

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"We would argue that it has been very successful. It builds in something that was already happening here in this province through workers compensation, as an example, and we're going to continue to do it," said Hindley.

Feds say systems don't follow Canada Health Act

In the statement, the Ministry of Health called the private-pay system for MRI and CT services a "unique two-for-one provision" that gives patients more options in accessing diagnostics. It said it adds capacity to the publicly-funded system.

"Our made-in-Saskatchewan approach to medical imaging has benefited not only patients looking for more choice in accessing these services but has also benefited the public system."

Since 2016, approximately 17,000 MRI scans and 1,250 CT scans have been provided under the two-for-one system to patients on public waiting lists, according to the Ministry of Health. It says there is no additional cost to either the public or the person who receives the scan after being on the public waiting list.

"We call on the federal government to reverse its decision to claw back these dollars and to recognize the benefits that Saskatchewan's unique approach has for both patients and the public health system."

(Government of Canada)

In a news release issued on Mar. 21, Health Canada said that upholding the Canada Health Act is a "critical way to protect Canada's health-care system and ensure Canadians have equitable access to medically necessary care based on their needs, not their ability to pay."

The federal government finds pay-for systems like Saskatchewan's to not be in line with the Canada Health Act.

"No Canadian should ever pay out of pocket for medically necessary services covered under the Canada Health Act. By working with provinces and territories, these Canada Health Transfer reimbursements will see money that was deducted due to patient charges on Canadians flow to provinces and territories to invest in their health-care systems," said Holland in the federal news release.

"Together, we can deliver the public health care Canadians need."

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