New Brunswick’s health minister says the province is moving to eliminate the physician billing number system.
Hugh J. Flemming announced the change during the New Brunswick Medical Society’s annual general meeting in Moncton on Saturday.
In a news release, Flemming says the physician billing number system “no longer works for the province” because it restricts the number of doctors practising and physician mobility, while impeding recruitment.
The society’s president, Dr. Serge Melanson, says it has long advocated for the elimination of billing numbers and is encouraged that the provincial government has followed up on the society’s recommendation.
The Department of Health says it will phase out the billing number system for both general practitioners and specialists over the next few months, and aims to complete the process by Dec. 15.
It says it is developing a new physician resource management plan with the Medical Society and with regional health authorities that will focus on establishing an alternative to the billing number system, a rural recruitment strategy, and an accountability framework to support improved access to primary care.
Currently in New Brunswick, doctors must be assigned a medicare billing number in order to practise.
The system was created in 1992 as a way of ensuring an equitable distribution of doctors across the province and to encourage physicians to practise in rural and underserved areas.