Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Looks to Target High-Billing Doctors with New Physician Budget

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Looks to Target High-Billing Doctors with New Physician Budget

Article excerpt

Ontario looks to target high-billing doctors

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TORONTO - Ontario's lengthy dispute with its doctors escalated Wednesday as the province's medical association dismissed as "unreasonable" a government proposal that would see fee cuts for high-billing specialists and more money for family physicians.

The proposed plan is the latest attempt by the Liberal government to work toward a physician services agreement with doctors, who voted overwhelmingly earlier this year to reject a tentative agreement.

Under the plan the government handed the Ontario Medical Association on Wednesday, the approximately 500 doctors who bill over $1 million would see fee cuts, while those savings would go toward an increase for family physicians.

The government is also proposing to fully review all 7,000 fee codes, as technological advances have made some procedures and tests easier and less time consuming.

OMA president Dr. Virginia Walley said the latest government proposal is a rehash of the tentative agreement that physicians roundly rejected in the summer.

"In response to this absolutely unreasonable and absolutely unfair unilateral action by the government this morning, all options are on the table for physicians in the province."

Walley said doctors are not ruling out any "options" at this point, including some sort of withdrawal of services.

Doctors have said they won't return to negotiations unless the government puts binding arbitration in place. Health Minister Eric Hoskins said he's willing to discuss it, but won't accept it as a pre-condition for negotiations.

The OMA had asked for time to sort out internal issues after the tentative deal was rejected -- many doctors expressed shock when that deal was reached, unaware talks had even been happening due to an OMA-prompted non-disclosure agreement. Four months have now passed with the government waiting for the OMA to signal it would resume negotiations, Hoskins said. …

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