NEWS
06/03/2016 17:22 EDT | Updated 06/04/2017 01:12 EDT

Province ordered to release doctors' names and OHIP billings

Ontarians could soon be able to find out how much their doctors are billing the province's health insurance plan annually. 

An adjudicator with the province's Information and Privacy Commission has ordered the government to disclose the names of doctors and the amounts they have billed the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

- Eric Hoskins says more than 500 doctors billed OHIP $1 million-plus 

The government could appeal the ruling in court, but Premier Kathleen Wynne is signaling the government will not. 

"I'm not going to second guess what the information and privacy commission has said," Wynne told reporters Friday in Ottawa. "We'll work with the information and privacy commissioner to comply with what he has proposed." 

This is a change in tone for the Ontario government. The province has until now refused to grant freedom of information requests by media outlets seeking lists of top billing physicians. 

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) opposes the release of doctors' billings and could seek a judicial review of the ruling, potentially delaying or stopping the disclosure.

"We are currently assessing the merits of the decision and are reviewing our options," said OMA president Virginia Walley in an email statement to CBC News

"We continue to advocate that disclosure of billings without context does not provide the public with an adequate picture, and may lead to a misunderstanding of billings versus income," said Walley. She said the public "cannot truly interpret the data" of billings without understanding overhead costs, such as rent, staff salaries and medical equipment.

The ruling comes amid bitter negotiations between the government and the OMA over the fees paid to physicians. 

Ontario annually discloses the salaries of all public-sector workers paid more than $100,000 in what's known as the Sunshine List. The salaries of the small minority of doctors who are on salary at public hospitals are disclosed on the list, but doctors who bill OHIP on a fee-for-service basis are exempt.

Government payments to businesses for contracts worth more than $10,000 are also revealed every year in the Public Accounts. But payments to doctors are not revealed on that list either. 

Doctors' total annual billings in British Columbia and Manitoba are public.