Auditor general says Quebec government needs to control medical user fees

Quebec Auditor General Guylaine Leclerc, shown above, on May 27, 2015, has harsh words for the way the province's clinics bill for medical user fees. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

QUEBEC CITY –  Quebec’s auditor general has some harsh criticism for the government, calling the way clinics bill for medical user fees “ambiguous, confusing and misunderstood.”

User fees can be applied for a number of things, including filling out forms, equipment the clinic uses and diagnostic testing.

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Auditor General Guylaine Leclerc said the government isn’t controlling what’s being billed and how it’s being billed.

Last week, the province’s health minister announced a plan to get rid of user fees by including their cost in doctor salaries.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette estimated the cost of user fees could be around $50 million.

The auditor general, in her report released Tuesday, said that number isn’t supported by any real analysis.

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However, it did acknowledge that new amendments, including Bill 20 could improve the situation.

Barrette said his government is on top of it and is also working to crackdown on clinics who are charging illegal user fees.

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“What is inappropriate because of the imprecisions of the law will be regulated clearly with what we’re doing under Bill 20,” he said.

“We are proud that at least, he changed his mind,” said Parti Québécois (PQ) health critic Diane Lamarre.

“But for now, we don’t have any confirmation that he may not introduce, by other ways, the [user] fees.”

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The PQ is also concerned about that $50 million estimate the auditor general wasn’t able to verify.

Lamarre said there’s no way to know if it’s too much or not enough, but in the end, it amounts to transferring the cost of user fees to the taxpayer.

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