Health cards to be mandatory

Anyone going to the doctor in the near future will have to show their health card before each visit as the province tries to crack down on health care fraud.
Starting March 1, the Ministry of Health is getting rid of its “good faith policy,” leaving it up to the medical providers to prove a patient is eligible for an OHIP claim.
If not, they could be out of pocket for services rendered because the province no longer will foot the bill.
“It is up to the physician to make sure that the person is covered. They are the ones who the good faith payments are going to be stopped to,” noted Lily Weedon, with the ministry’s communications branch.
“The provider has to verify the card every time.”
While they haven’t worked out the details as to how that will be done, the Fort Frances Clinic stressed people will be required to present a current health card on every visit.
“We have not decided on which way we are going to do it,” administrator Maureen Gartshore said, adding the clinic will be letting the public know once the details were in place.
Meanwhile, Paul Brown, CEO of Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc. here, wasn’t sure what impact this new policy would have on its hospitals in Fort Frances, Emo, and Rainy River.
In the past, OHIP has had a “pay first, ask questions later” policy where physicians were paid for the visit even if the person wasn’t eligible to be covered by Ontario taxpayers.
Under that, Weedon noted, the ministry estimates about $28,000 tax dollars is paid out every month for those who aren’t eligible.
“This will probably find more,” she added.
Now, before each visit, a person’s health card will be run through a machine like a credit card, Weedon said. If it comes up that the person is not eligible, the service will not be provided until payment or arrangement for payment is made.
While a person’s health card number will remain the same, the version codes on it change as the information changes. And it will be mandatory that the version codes on the card match the information the Ministry of Health has.
Some methods, such as photocopying a health card to put in the patient’s chart, won’t work because the information cannot be kept up-to-date.
If a health card has expired, the patient won’t have to pay for the service but will be asked to update the information.
“The coverage is still fine,” Weedon insisted, admitting if a person was eligible for OHIP coverage, they really couldn’t be charged for the visit. “[But] the onus is on the individual to keep his information up-to-date with OHIP.”
One area where this won’t apply is with emergency services. Weedon stressed emergencies will continue to be provided on a “treat first, ask questions later” policy.
“They will get treated,” she assured. “They might ask questions afterward. [But] first you treat the patient.”
“No one would be denied access to medical care because they don’t have a health card with them,” echoed Gartshore.