The B.C. Medical Services Commission has filed a court injunction against Telus Health’s subscription Life Plus program.
The injunction, which was filed in B.C.’s Supreme Court Thursday, alleges the program violates the Medicare Protection Act, according to the province.
“It is very important to uphold the Medicare Protection Act, which is in place to preserve our publicly managed and fiscally sustainable health-care system for British Columbia,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix at a news conference on Thursday.
The Medicare Protection Act ensures that access to necessary medical care should be based on need and not an individual’s ability to pay. Health insurance premiums are permitted as long as residents are not denied coverage for medically necessary hospital and physician services.
Dix says the injunction is only for concerns regarding the fees charged by the Life Plus program not other aspects of Telus Health.
“We do significant work on a number of files [and] health issues with Telus, and they’re an outstanding corporation in B.C.,” he said. “It only reflects aspects of that program.”
The health minister says he can’t comment further on details about the filing because the matter is before the courts.
Telus has pushed back on its website against the claims, saying that LifePlus program fees “are strictly for uninsured services and not publicly insured services,” adding that publicly insured services are billed to the patient’s medical services plan.
The program costs $4,650 for the first year and $3,600 in all subsequent years.
At a news teleconference, Juggy Sihota, the vice president of Telus Health, denied claims that patients whose doctors joined Telus Life Plus can’t get primary care unless they pay the fees.
“The services that we have them providing through the life program are for preventative care. If a preventative care patient is coming to use the service and has an insured service request, that physician is free to provide that care to that patient of their own accord.”
Sihota didn’t say whether Telus will be fighting the injunction but said it “welcomes the legal proceeding.”
“We’re blindsided right now … and I think that’s very disrespectful, and it’s quite a shame. We are disappointed with the route that the Medical Services Commission has chosen.”
Patient says he lost his family doctor to Telus Health
Vancouver-resident Mark Winston, 72, said he received a letter from his family doctor late last year telling him he’s relocating to Telus Health.
“I was devastated because he was, I’m sure still is, a fantastic physician, and I’ve been with him for probably 14 or 15 years and really had a great relationship with him,” said Winston, who’s also a retired Simon Fraser University professor.
Winston says the letter stated he might be able to continue seeing his doctor if he joined the Telus Health Life Plus program.
“At my age and with the relationship I built with my family doctor, I really did think about doing it because I didn’t want to lose that care, but I just don’t believe in private health care.
“I don’t believe any Canadian should have to spend $4,000 a year to see a primary care provider.”
Winston says he managed to find another family doctor, but unfortunately, she’s leaving her practice soon for other reasons and now he’s waiting to be taken in by another doctor at the same clinic.
“That just highlighted for me how precarious our primary care system was — it left me without any primary care, which turned out to be quite a journey.
“I’m really supportive of the government clarifying whether private industry can jump into our health-care system and provide for-profit kinds of health care. I think it’s going to be a very important legal case.”