Alberta health minister says 2020 physician billing changes will not be repeated

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Alberta health minister says 2020 physician billing changes will not be repeated


Alberta’s health minister said it was a mistake to try to change the way doctors bill for extended patient visits – a move that has been challenged in a labor relations war that has dragged on one year with 11,000 doctors.
“We have heard the concerns of rural communities and rural physicians and we have listened,” Tyler Shandro told the House on Monday during question period.

« [It] was a policy we should never have followed initially, and no changes will be made in the future. ”

Primary care physicians are currently voting on whether to ratify a new framework agreement recently negotiated between Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Medical Association, which negotiates for physicians.

If the deal passes, it would end a year of acrimony with medics that included a lawsuit, bad faith bargaining charges, insults on social media and medics withdrawing services or promising a 10-minute cut. in protest. on proposed changes to the complex modifiers used to bill for complicated consultations and longer patient visits.

UCP canceled agreement with doctors

The changes were among several Shandros announced in early 2020 after the United Conservative government passed and implemented a bill rescinding the existing framework agreement with the medical association.

They would have reduced the fees and conditions for doctor-patient visits that involved complex medical issues.

Shandro’s ministry said the changes were needed because the formula did not work well for longer visits and some doctors were abusing the fee schedule to increase their results.

The medical association said the fees reflected the preparation time and warned that the changes would seriously undermine the results of rural and family practices and possibly force them to close.

The changes were due to go into effect in early 2020, but were rolled back by Shandro – along with revisions to allowances, liability insurance and other programs – as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and the doctors have started to withdraw their services, especially in rural areas.

Shandro did not explain on Tuesday why the changes were a mistake. He and Dr Paul Boucher, head of the medical association, could not be reached immediately for comment.

Doctors must complete the vote on the new tentative agreement by the end of the month. Neither party has published the content.

The details of the deal obtained by The Canadian Press state that doctors’ base salaries would remain at around $ 4.6 billion for the four years of the deal, retroactive to 2020 and subject to spending necessary to expedite surgeries in order. reduce waiting times.

Last month, the province introduced a budget that fixed physician compensation at $ 5.4 billion for the coming year, rising to $ 5.5 billion by 2024.

The proposal makes no reference to the possibility for physicians to have access to third party arbitration. This would give the medical association the right to invoke non-binding mediation on key issues.

But if that didn’t work, the document suggests that the government would have the final say.

The arbitration was overturned by the province when it rejected the framework agreement last year. WADA previously called arbitration critical since, for ethical reasons, doctors cannot quit their jobs to gain influence at the negotiating table.

Year of bad blood

A lawsuit against the province last spring accuses the government of violating collective bargaining rights and of bargaining in bad faith.

It symbolized a year of bad blood between Shandro’s ministry and the doctors. Each has mocked and belittled the other on social media and accused each other of selective statistics.

Doctors’ groups said at one point that its members had no faith or confidence in Shandro, while ministry staff dismissed the medical association as a pressure group spreading disinformation.

Shandro said fundamental changes in physician pay and working arrangements are needed for healthcare to remain sustainable in the long term.

Alberta is expected to spend $ 21.4 billion on health in the next fiscal year starting April 1.

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