Bring private clinics into the healthcare fold

With no walk-in clinics in many cities such as Kamloops, the last thing the B.C. government needs to do is crack down on existing private ones. They should be integrated into our healthcare delivery system.

image: CTV Vancouver

But no, our health insurance commission is taking Telus Health to court.

There are three Telus Health Care Centres clinics in Vancouver and one in Victoria with plans to expand. They are not walk-in clinics but they could be.

They charge for sessions with mental health specialists, Clinical Psychologist and Registered Dietitian. It will cost you up to $225 per session.

True, BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) will cover the cost of some of these specialists but only when referred to by your family doctor. And with a million British Columbians without a family doctor, your chances of seeing a specialist are close to zero.

Telus Health is not breaking the law by charging for access to these specialists because they are not covered by MSP.

In principle, those who can pay should not have greater access to health care than those who can’t.

But Telus provides free health care for things not covered by MSP through their “Health for Good” programs. They provide access to primary and mental health services for homeless and marginalized persons through Mobile Health Clinics and online sessions.

The B.C. Medical Services Commission claims that Telus’ LifePlus program is breaking the law by charging patients for services that should be publicly covered.

Maybe so. The court case is ongoing and depends on just what is covered by MSP.

The Medical Services Commission’s claim is based on a probe done by a private investigator, a would-be patient. The investigator was told they would have to pay an annual fee to see a family doctor, which isn’t allowed under the Medical Protection Act.

The act ensures access to necessary medical care should be based on need, not an individual’s ability to pay.

The case against Telus Health is complicated by the fact that Telus Health provides free online consultations to B.C. residents covered under by MSP. You can choose the doctor you want to see, book a time, and have prescriptions made.

Telus Health denied the accusations, saying its program is only trying to relieve pressure on the public system.

A spokesperson for the LifePlus program says its fees — $4,650 in the first year and $3,650 in subsequent years — are not for primary care and “strictly” for uninsured services like dietitians, kinesiologists and other health and wellness needs.

If true, LifePlus is operating within the Medical Protection Act.

I have proposed the construction of medical clinics based the model used by BC Housing to address the housing shortage. Clinics would be built by “BC Clinics” and handed over to non-profit societies who would rent out space and pay the mortgage.

Now I would include Telus’ privately-run clinics to provide healthcare for all. They would bill MSP as any doctor would. The province would pay Telus for the operation of the clinic.

It might seem outrageous that the province would pay for the operation of private clinic but not considering the cost of building and staffing clinics –which we desperately need.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.