B.C. and one of Canada’s largest telecommunication companies have reached a settlement regarding the company allegedly breaking a law by charging for services covered under the medical services plan.
Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the settlement with Telus Health — which comes into effect immediately — Wednesday (April 26) at the provincial legislature.
“This is how we act to protect health care services in B.C. and how we act to protect patients,” said Dix, adding the program is now complying with the Medicare Protection Act.
Telus will no longer offer the services of physicians to new clients as part of a settlement with the commission patrolling public healthcare. Telus Health will also separate its existing physician services to offer publicly funded medically necessary services apart from its LifePlus program as part of the program.
Prior to the settlement, an injunction was filed to prevent Telus Health from contravening Section 17 of the act by facilitating access, or priority access, to Medical Services Plan benefits through its LifePlus program.
B.C.’s Medical Services Commission the injunction Dec. 1, 2022, claiming the program was breaking the law by charging for services covered under the medical services plan, after having received reports of extra billing.
MSC said in its injunction that the fee leads people to believe they will get preferential treatment if they pay for memberships. The court documents cited a would-be patient and a private investigator who say they were told they would have to pay the annual membership fee to see a family doctor.
Telus denied the allegations. It said that its membership fees of $4,650 in the first year and $3,650 in subsequent years did not cover primary care, only uninsured services like dietitians, kinesiologists and other health and wellness needs.
Telus Health vice-president Juggy Sihota said in a statement issued Wednesday that the agreement modifies some of the program’s operations over time to draw a clearer distinction between insured and uninsured care while maintaining continuity of care.
“In a challenging and evolving health environment, TELUS Health is committed to continuing to be a collaborative partner in providing innovative health solutions to people in British Columbia,” Sihota said.
Dix said doctors in the LifePlus program will now work under Telus Health and provide services under the Medical Protection Act there.
It is not clear how many LifePlus members had received care from physicians working for Telus.
Dix acknowledged the settlement does not prevent Telus from providing patients in B.C. with access to doctors in other provinces.
- with files from Canadian Press