With inflation rates being so high, every sector has been feeling the effects, including physicians in BC.
How the public health system works is, Canadian residents enjoy the benefits of free medical insurance that is regulated at a provincial level.
In BC specifically, our public health insurance is called the MSP and it covers all medically-necessary insured doctor’s services.
Doctors must be licensed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC (CPSBC) in order to enroll with MSP. Once enrolled they receive a billing number which they can then use to submit claims to MSP based on the services they give to their patient.
However, lately, with clinics closing and many Victorians finding themselves without a family physician, some doctors and practices have decided to unenroll from MSP in favour of charging a monthly fee.
By law, any unenrolled physicians in BC can’t charge patients more than the MSP amount for an insured benefit, unless the service is provided at a facility other than a hospital or community care facility, as defined by legislation.
This means that doctors who are unenrolled from MSP and operate outside of hospitals and BC community care centres can set their own fees.
Beta Therapeutics in Royal Oak has been operating as an allied care practice, offering treatments such as registered massage therapy, physiotherapy, clinical counselling and other wellness services.
They are the latest practice to join the ranks of the province’s private practices with a physician who is unenrolled from the Medical Services Plan (MSP) joining their team in November.
In anticipation of Dr. Dan Cutfeet, MD, coming onboard their team and becoming a medical practice as well as an allied care wellness centre, they have decided to forego the public health system and charge a monthly or annual fee for their new physician’s care.
The fee will be set at $110 per month based on an annual commitment of $1,320.
“There has to be something put in place to attract new physicians, both into Victoria as well as into the profession,” Beta Therapeutics Clinic Director, Samantha Rocha told Victoria Buzz.
“So if there is a way to create a model like what we’re trying to do, which is affordable Family Medicine, that allows providers to be paid fairly and have some work life balance. If that can attract them over into Victoria and take on some of the patients who are not attached to a primary care provider, that would be beneficial.”
Dr. Cutfeet, who will begin practicing medicine as a Family Practitioner at Beta Therapeutics in November, is a licensed physician with the CPSBC, who will plan to unenroll from MSP.
With Greater Victoria having a noticeable shortage of family doctors and a full capacity when it comes to walk-in, urgent care clinics, Beta Therapeutics is trying to fill a need that cannot be filled for BC residents looking for long term care.
“Right now, the goal of our clinic is to provide that long term primary care oversight for patients that they’re not experiencing,” Rocha said in an interview.
When asked about the demographic of those who have been signing up to be members of their clinic she said, “We’re seeing seniors, we’re seeing families, we’re seeing individuals of all ages. People are even signing up their kids who haven’t been born yet.”
If patients choose to pay the membership fee and make Dr. Cutfeet their family physician, it does not mean that they would miss out on anything provided by BC’s MSP.
“Our physicians are able to do referrals and do orders for labs and imaging just the same as any physician would,” said Rocha. “Once they go out to get their imaging or their surgeries and things like that they’re not being placed ahead of a queue. They won’t be placed at the back of the line either. They just get filtered into the public system, just like everybody else.”
“We’re not advocates for the widespread privatization of healthcare in BC,” said Rocha to conclude her interview. “It’s the responsibility of the BC government to ensure that the healthcare system operates in a way that serves the residents of BC.”
Perpetual Health Centre in Saanich and the Riverview Medical Clinic in Kamloops are two other clinics that have recently made the switch to being a private practice, opting-out of MSP and charging monthly or annual fees for their services as physicians.
At Perpetual Health Centre, Dr. Perpetua Nkechi Nwosu also announced that as of November 1st, she will be charging an annual fee of $1,500 for membership.
But Dr. Nwosu’s practice now has to deal with more complexities, as she has an existing patient panel of individuals who may not be able to pay for her soon-to-be implemented membership fee.
At Beta Therapeutics, Dr. Cutfeet is coming from up island near Alert Bay and has notified his patients he is moving in accordance with bylaws dictated by the CPSBC, Doctors of BC and the MSP. So he doesn’t have existing patients to force a membership fee upon. He is starting with a fresh slate of new patients.
When asked if Dr. Cutfeet would be able to manage the treatment of all those who have applied for a membership with Beta Therapeutics, Clinic Director Rocha said, “his waitlist is filling steadily. So everyone who registers right now is 100% confirmed, and accepted into the family practice.”
Victoria Buzz reached out to Doctors of BC and the MSP, who together set the prices that physicians in BC can charge for both insured and uninsured benefits under the MSP, but did not receive a response prior to this publication.