In light of the current and ongoing COVID-19 crisis in Alberta, the UCP government announced on March 17 that it is cancelling the changes planned for physicians’ payments for complex modifiers.
The changes were to take effect on March 31.
“During these unprecedented times, we want to ensure physicians on the front lines can focus solely on providing patient care,” said Minister of Health Tyler Shandro in a Government of Alberta news release.
“We’ve heard concerns that this change would result in what has been called ‘10-minute medicine.’ While we respectfully disagree with that characterization, we are nevertheless halting this change so that doctors can concentrate on the critical tasks at hand.”
Dr. Christine Molnar, president of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), stated in the release that the AMA appreciates the government’s concession to remove the complex time modifier from the funding framework.
“This is a significant step in supporting patients and physicians,” said Molnar.
“There is still work to be done. We will work in any venue to advance patient care and to reach a formal agreement between physicians and Alberta Health.”
Complex modifiers are fees doctors can charge for spending additional time with a patient that requires complex care.
The first modifier that general practitioners bill for a visit will remain at the 15-minute mark at the current rate of $18.48. Other complex modifiers will remain available at current rates and current time requirements.
According to the release, a physician compensation advisory committee will be created to examine all aspects of the physician services funding model and in order to make recommendations on the best delivery of “high-quality patient-focused health services to Albertans.”
The advisory committee will be made up of the public, physicians and Alberta Health, and will also look at other alternatives to fee-for-service and complex modifiers.
Although the announcement is welcome, a Ponoka doctor says it doesn’t go far enough.
“The cancellation of the complex modifier changes is a good move. It enables us to continue to provide patients the care they need with the time they need,” said Dr. Gregory Sawisky, a physician with the Battle River Medical Clinic.
“However, the government is still arrogantly pushing ahead with its cuts to health care with the passage of their budget last night.
“I am flabbergasted that given this pandemic their only positional change was to not cancel the time modifiers. They are still cutting our medical insurance support, our education support as well as cuts to our business cost assistance. This is in addition to not knowing what we will be paid in the hospital after March 31, 2020.
“Clearly this government could do more to listen to their constituents and physicians during this pandemic. I hope that they do.”