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Medical overbilling registry launched by Pointe St-Charles clinic

02/15/2015 03:26 EST | Updated 04/17/2015 05:59 EDT
A community-oriented medical clinic in one of Montreal's poorest neighbourhoods has launched an online registry to keep track of illegal and abusive billing practices in Quebec.

The Pointe St-Charles Community Clinic decided to launch the registry to help residents complaining of excess medical fees.

"Some doctors are charging fees in some clinics," said Geneviève McCready, a member of the clinic's "fight for health" committee. 

"Some of those fees are illegal, so the doctors are not allowed to charge them, but they still do it. Some doctors charge way over what it actually costs — for example, it could be an anaesthetic to get stitches, and people can be charged $45 for this anaesthetic, while it costs $2 or $3 for the doctor."

McCready said other fees may be technically legal, but they contribute to the restrictions people on fixed incomes face when trying to get appropriate medical care.

She said the committee has heard from some patients who decided not to continue seeking care after being informed of doctors' fees they couldn't afford.

Have you been billed for medical services you shouldn't have been? Tell us by emailing assignmentmontreal@cbc.ca

Abusive and illegal fees

McCready pointed out, as one example, an invoice a woman received after taking her two-month-old son to get vaccinated.

The clinic she went to charged her $10 for a physician's assistant and $15 for each vaccine — vaccines that are in accordance with the province's immunization schedule and which are usually covered by the province's public health insurance plan (RAMQ).

The woman's bill totalled $55, but that visit should have cost her nothing.

McCready said RAMQ is aware of clinics and doctors charging illegal and abusive fees, and it has the right to impose penalties. However, she said RAMQ chooses not to enforce the law.

She said RAMQ reimburses people on a case-by-case basis who take the time to call and complain about excessive or illegal fees. 

"We want to build this registry," McCready said.  "We want people to fill in the registry, so we can get a good portrait of what's happening in Quebec, and therefore we can put pressure on the government and the RAMQ to apply the law with the coercive methods that they actually have."

She said the clinic will collect all the data and issue a report in a year's time to paint a better picture of what's going on in the province's medical clinics.

McCready also said people can also choose to join a class-action lawsuit for medical overbilling led by lawyer Bruno Grenier. 

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