April 4, 2018 3:45 pm
Updated: April 5, 2018 2:25 am

B.C. doctors no longer allowed to bill for extra fees starting Oct. 1

WATCH: The B.C. government announced plans to enforce a law that's been on the books for 15-years. As Keith Baldrey reports, the province is going to start cracking down on doctors for extra billing.

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The days of walking into a private medical clinic and paying outright for an MRI scan or a joint replacement operation in British Columbia will soon come to an end.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Wednesday that effective Oct. 1, the NDP government will fully ban what is known as “extra billing” by doctors.

LISTEN: B.C. targets private healthcare with new rules

Extra billing is defined as additional fees charged by a physician or a clinic for a publicly-funded health procedure that is medically necessary, or when a patient pays out of their own pocket for such a procedure in a private facility.

There are 56 private surgical facilities and 17 private MRI facilities in B.C.

Dix said the federal government audited three private clinics last year and as a result estimated that extra billing in B.C. amounted to $15.9 million.

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Public health authorities sometimes contract out some procedures to private facilities and that practice will be allowed to continue, Dix said.

READ MORE: B.C. government promises to cut hip and knee replacement wait times

No new legislation will be required. The Medicare Protection Act was passed in 2003, but the sections dealing with extra billing were never brought into force.

Dix said the provincial cabinet has now proclaimed those sections into law, and they clarify and strengthen the prohibitions against extra billing.

Under the new rules, patients who are charged additional fees by a physician or a private facility can file a complaint with the Medical Services Commission.

If an investigation by the commission determines that extra billing did indeed occur, it can order the physician or facility to reimburse the patient for any inappropriate charges.

READ MORE: B.C. government promises to cut MRI wait times

If a physician or facility refuses to reimburse the charges, they can face a fine of $10,000 ($20,000 on a second offence) and face de-enrolment from the Medical Services Plan.

The government’s move follows Dix’s earlier announcements that 9,400 more joint replacement and dental surgeries and 37,000 more MRIs will be funded in the coming year.

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