Calgary, November 22
Health Minister Jason Copping announced the government will lift the visit cap — at least temporarily — until March 2023, while they assess the impact of the change. It should cost about $22 million per year. “The intent was to promote quality care and safety for patients and physicians,” Copping said at a virtual news conference on Monday.
The United Conservative Party government introduced the cap, along with other changes unpopular with doctors, when they terminated a master agreement with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) in February 2020 and implemented a new contract.
The policy saw physicians get full compensation for up to 50 “visit service billings” each day, but just half the pay for billings past that, up to 65 services. Doctors weren’t compensated at all for any services that went beyond 65 they already billed in a single day.
This was supposed to be a cost-saving measure that would prevent doctors from becoming exhausted. Patients who can’t go to clinics are turning to emergency rooms, which are more expensive and overcrowded, Copping said. Copping said the government will remove the cap as soon as the government can update the medical billing system.
While this will help bring more patients out of primary care waiting rooms and emergency rooms, until they see an impact, they won’t commit to expanding the transition next March.