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Class action against the illegal levying of accessory fees by certain clinics

Montreal, June 2, 2016 - The firm Grenier Verbauwhede, in partnership with the Pointe-Saint-Charles Community Clinic has just filed a motion to authorize a class action suit against the provincial government, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) and three medical clinics. The class action challenges the legality of levying accessory fees for services covered under the public health insurance plan. The class action targets not only the billing of certain services such as the shipping of samples, the scheduling of an appointment, access to one’s medical file and the payment of an annual fee but also certain medical supplies other than medication and anaesthetics. It is important to note that all medically necessary services are free unless an exception applies and these exceptions are rare.

Mr. Daniel Raunet, a former journalist with Radio Canada, will be requesting the authorization to represent the group of aggrieved patients. Mr. Raunet was charged illegal fees in June 2013 at the Clinique de Gastro-Entérologie Pierre-Boucher. The fees were imposed for access to his medical file as a prerequisite to obtaining an insured service. After having lodged a complaint, Mr. Raunet was reimbursed the fee paid but was not given any assurance that such a questionable practice would be discontinued. Mr. Raunet is also alleging a second illegal levying of accessory fees, by the Clinique Radiologie PB, in order for him to obtain a copy on CD of the X-ray of his knees, a document requested by his orthopaedist in order to proceed with an intervention.

The motion also targets the Clinique d’endoscopie digestive HD-Sanctuaire (Institut de chirurgie spécialisée de Montréal), which billed « excess fees » in relation to an insured digestive endoscopy. Informed of the situation by the patient, the RAMQ tried to excuse this overcharging by characterizing the fees as having been “billed by a hospital for pathology services and for the transportation of samples”. However, in addition to the fact that the invoice does not mention either of these services, it is illegal for a clinic to charge them. It should be noted in connection with these various examples that the RAMQ already pays extra amounts to doctors for acts performed in clinics in order to cover such expenses.

The amounts involved in this case are considerable. In a report published on May 11 on the “fees charged in clinics for medical services”, the Auditor General of Quebec estimates that the government does not have the necessary data to evaluate the extent of the surcharges paid by patients. “There is no way to identify them and no obligation in the regulations or in the agreements with doctors to divulge them to the MSSS or the RAMQ” (translation, p. 16). The Auditor General evaluates the value of the fees charged between 9.9 and 18 million dollars (p. 23), but the Minister has said on multiple occasions that they are closer to 50 million dollars per year.

The Pointe-Saint-Charles Community Clinic is supporting this class action because it considers the fees associated with medical services paid by patients to be unjust, inequitable and abusive. The Community Clinic launched its register of fees charged during medical consultations in February 2015 (http://ccpsc.qc.ca/registre). More than 700 individuals have already submitted examples. This is indisputable evidence of the injustice and abuse felt by patients who are required to pay additional fees to receive medical services. The Community Clinic intends to inform the people who submitted information to the register of this new class action and will invite them to participate in it. We invite patients who have suffered damages to send us copies of their bills at info@surfacturation.ca in order to include their files in this class action.

SOURCE: GRENIER VERBAUWHEDE AVOCATS

Information:
Stéphane Defoy, community organizer
Pointe-Saint-Charles Community Clinic
Telephone: 438 822-8298