When it comes to finding out how much doctors bill, there’s a lot of variation across the country. In British Columbia, that information is at your fingertips, while in Newfoundland there’s an ongoing court battle to try to keep such details secret.
Here’s a look at transparency in physician billing from coast to coast:
You can look up how much every doctor in B.C. bills online by name. The Blue Book lists annual payments made from the province’s Medical Services Commission to doctors as well as clinics, hospitals and diagnostic facilities. The figures are not doctors’ take-home-pay as overhead expenses come out of billings.
The province also makes other information public, such as the top 50 fee items by year, and fee-for-service statistics by specialty.
Detailed information about physician payments by specialty is available in an annual report from Alberta Health, the provincial health authority. But unlike in B.C., there’s nothing publicly available under doctors’ names.
Information including average billings is available in an annual report released by the Ministry of Health. There’s nothing with doctors’ names attached, but you can see how much the highest paid physicians get, overall and by specialty.
The Manitoba Public Sector Compensation Disclosure Act requires health authorities and hospitals to make an annual list of employees who earn more than $50,000 a year publicly available.
It does not include fee-for-service payments billed to the Ministry of Health.
After a series of Freedom-of-Information requests by health reporter Theresa Boyle, the first of which was filed five years ago, the Star published the first-ever searchable public database of 194 of the top-billing doctors in July. Doctors had tried to block the release of the billing information in court, arguing it was personal and private.
The data, drilled down to patient level with identifying information stripped out, includes such granular detail as doctors’ total billings to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan per year, number of patient visits, fee codes and billings for top procedures by cost and quantity. Information on the rest of Ontario’s 31,500 practising doctors is still cloaked in secrecy.
There’s nothing publicly available.
After years of pressure from New Brunswick’s auditor general, the province’s Department of Health released doctors’ gross payments, by name and pay range for the first time in 2017. The figures don’t take into account expenses such as salaries and rent.
Under Nova Scotia’s Public Sector Compensation Disclosure Act, the names and pay of employees of the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre, a prominent hospital, are publicly disclosed. This only applies to those paid over $100,000 a year.
This includes doctors who are directly employed by the health authority or IWK, such as team leads. The list does not include billings by these physicians paid through the province’s Medical Services Insurance Program, a spokesperson confirmed.
Prince Edward Island
Physician fee-for-service and contract payments were tabled in the legislature last spring as part of the budget, letting the public know how much doctors were paid in 2016 and 2017. The publicly available document lists total fee-for-service and contract payments for the past two years by primary specialty and physician number. But it doesn’t list doctors by name.
Read more from the Star’s Operation Transparency series:
Nothing comprehensive is available online for Newfoundland. In 2016, the CBC filed an access request for the total amount billed by each physician to the province’s Medical Care Plan. The information and privacy commissioner ruled that the information should be released, but the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association filed an appeal with the province’s Supreme Court to block it.
The case is still before the court and has not had its initial hearing, a spokesperson for the medical association confirmed.
The Yukon does not publish a list of physicians’ salaries, a spokesperson confirmed. A physician fee guide is available online. You can also find information on the province’s contract registry about physicians who have been contracted by the government for specific services.
Nothing comprehensive is available online.
Nothing is available, a spokesperson confirmed to the Star.
One in a series of stories.
May Warren is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11