Alberta Health Ministry Audit Reveals Over 40 Clinics Charging Membership Fees for Services

Alberta audit uncovers over 40 clinics charging membership fees, raising concerns about access to family doctors and potential violations of the Canada Health Act.

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Sakchi Khandelwal
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Alberta Health Ministry Audit Reveals Over 40 Clinics Charging Membership Fees for Services

Alberta Health Ministry Audit Reveals Over 40 Clinics Charging Membership Fees for Services

An audit conducted by Alberta's health ministry has uncovered more than 40 medical clinics in the province advertising membership fees for services, nearly a year after a controversy erupted over a Calgary clinic's plan to charge patients for access to a family doctor. The ministry expressed concern about the number of clinics advertising these fees, warning that it could restrict access to family physicians.

The audit, launched in December 2022, came in the wake of backlash faced by the Marda Loop Medical Clinic in Calgary for its proposed $4,800 annual family membership fee. "The planned arrangement at the Marda Loop Medical Clinic ran contrary to the Canada Health Act," Health Canada stated at the time, prompting the Alberta government to initiate an inquiry.

As part of the audit, the province conducted interviews to gather information on the operations and business models of the clinics in question. The findings will be used to determine if further action is necessary. Premier Danielle Smith had previously cautioned that the Marda Loop Medical Clinic would face fines, loss of medicare funding, or even closure if it moved forward with charging membership fees.

Why this matters: The issue highlights the growing trend of clinics turning to private charges as a revenue source, raising concerns about potential violations of the Canada Health Act. The federal government has already imposed deductions on Alberta's Canada Health Transfer payments due to patient billing for publicly funded services.

Fiona Clement, a professor at the University of Calgary, expressed hope that the ongoing review tied to Alberta clinics charging membership fees will be made publicly available. The Canadian Medical Association has also voiced concerns about changes to the capital gains tax, noting that many doctors are incorporated and rely on their corporations to save and invest for retirement.

Key Takeaways

  • Alberta audit finds over 40 clinics advertising membership fees
  • Marda Loop Medical Clinic's $4,800 annual fee deemed violation of Canada Health Act
  • Alberta government initiated inquiry to determine if further action is necessary
  • Concerns raised about potential violations of Canada Health Act and access to family physicians
  • Canadian Medical Association voices concerns about changes to capital gains tax for doctors