The British Columbia Medical Services Commission has filed an injunction against Telus Health’s Life Plus subscription program.
The injunction, which was filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court on Thursday, alleged that the program violated the Medicare Protection Act, according to the province.
“It is extremely important to uphold the Medicare Protection Act, which is in place to maintain British Columbia’s publicly managed, financially sustainable healthcare system,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said at a news conference Thursday.
The Medicare Protection Act ensures that access to needed medical care should be based on need and not on an individual’s ability to pay. Health insurance premiums are allowed as long as residents are not denied coverage of medically necessary hospital and doctor services.
Dix says the injunction is only for concerns about fees charged by Life Plus and not other aspects of Telus Health.
“We’re doing a lot of work on a number of files [and] Health issues with Telus, a prominent British Columbia company. “They just reflect aspects of this program.”
The Minister of Health says he cannot comment further on the details of the filing because the matter is before the courts.
Telus has responded on its website against the allegations, saying that LifePlus fees are “exclusive for uninsured services and not publicly insured services,” adding that publicly insured services are billed to the patient’s medical services plan.
The cost of the program is $4,650 for the first year and $3,600 for all subsequent years.
On a news conference call, Juggy Sihota, vice president of Telus Health, denied claims that patients whose doctors have joined Telus Life Plus can’t get primary care unless they pay the fee.
“The services we provide to them through the Life Program are for preventive care. If a preventive care patient is coming in to use the service and has an insured service request, that physician is free to provide that care to that patient on their own.”
Sihota did not say whether Tellos would fight the order but said he “welcomes the legal action.”
“Now we’re shocked…and I think that’s very disrespectful, and it’s very unfortunate. We are disappointed with the course chosen by the MSC.”
The patient says he lost his family doctor at Telus Health
Vancouver resident Mark Winston, 72, said he received a letter from his family doctor late last year telling him he was transferring to Telus Health.
said Winston, who is also a Simon Emeritus Professor at Fraser University.
Winston says the letter said he might be able to continue seeing his doctor if he joined Telus Health Life Plus.
“At my age and with the relationship I’ve built with my family doctor, I really considered doing this because I didn’t want to lose out on that care, but I don’t believe in private healthcare.
“I don’t think any Canadian should spend $4,000 a year to see a primary care provider.”
Winston says he’s managed to find another family doctor, but unfortunately, she’ll be leaving her practice soon for other reasons, and now he’s waiting to be picked up by another doctor at the same clinic.
“It highlighted to me how fragile our primary care system is – it left me without any primary care, which turned out to be quite a journey.
“I’m really in favor of the government making it clear whether the private sector can jump into our healthcare system and offer for-profit types of healthcare. I think it’s going to be a very important legal issue.”