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Double-dipping doctors defy the spirit of Canadian health-care

Jane Philpott is Canada's Minister of Health.

I spent most of my adult life working as a family doctor. As Health Minister, I've also been committed to working with provinces and territories to uphold the Canada Health Act. This fundamental piece of legislation embodies the principles that access to health-care should be based on need, not ability to pay, and that Canadians should not have to pay for services they have already paid for through their taxes.

That's what makes the recent reports in The Globe and Mail about double-dipping so troubling to Canadians. Some doctors – and I believe that it is a small minority – have adopted the practice of charging extra fees for faster access to medically necessary care.

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These fees are both unlawful and abusive and, most of all, they defy the spirit of Canadian health-care. They are bad policy and bad medicine.

Globe Investigation: Doctors charging both government and patients privately in illegal double-dipping practice

André Picard: Health-care system a free-for-all for double-dipping doctors

Read more: Canadian patients, advocates speak out about illegal doctor double-billing

Our government has taken concrete actions to work with provinces and territories to increase access to health-care. Through Budget 2017, we increased health transfers to historic levels. We also provided $6-billion to help increase access to care for seniors, and $5-billion to help improve mental health services. Whether for seniors or youth, these investments will support early intervention and rehabilitation, and are designed to take pressure off our hospital system.

It is through investments like these that we will improve access to health-care. This will not be accomplished by asking Canadians to pay for faster access, through a user fee, or extra billing. That is a recipe for greater inequality: one system for the rich, and another for other Canadians.

Our government is proud to defend the Canada Health Act and the principle of access to care based on medical need, not the ability to pay.

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I've made it clear to my provincial counterparts that I have concerns about user fees and extra billing, and that our government will take further action, as required.

Discussions are continuing with provincial and territorial partners to develop a stronger, more coherent approach to monitor and stop the practice of user fees across the country. Legislation at the provincial level must be enforced, and people should not hesitate to report misconduct to authorities.

In that regard, we're pleased that Quebec took steps to stop abusive practices following reports of accessory fees charged by doctors.

We are also actively engaged in the Cambie case, with British Columbia, recognizing that this case could have significant implications for Canadians' access to publicly funded care.

Canadians should be able to count on doctors to provide safe, high-quality care that patients can access in a timely way. The practice of charging extra fees for faster access is not only illegal; it is not the Canadian way.

Health care professionals, professional associations, provinces, territories and private citizens all have a role to play in protecting medicare, and reporting on improper practices.

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As federal Minister of Health, I will continue to use all tools at my disposal to uphold the law, and defend the principles of the Canada Health Act: public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility. And Canadians should expect provinces, territories and all health-care professionals to do the same.

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