Amidst the COVID-19 escalation in Alberta, the provincial government announced on Tuesday that changes to a key dispute between the province and the Alberta Medical Association will not go ahead as scheduled.
The complex modifiers, which are intended to compensate doctors who spend more time with patients who have complex medical needs, will remain intact beyond March 31.
Local doctors railed against this change, along with almost a dozen others the province was prepared to enact starting April 1.
Currently, doctors can bill $41 as a base fee for each patient visit, but if a visit went past 15 minutes, doctors could bill an additional $18.
That was going to be halved to $9 for the remainder of the year as the new model was supposed to be phased in, where an extra fee would only kick in after 25 minutes.
The AMA said that would hurt rural health care.
“During these unprecedented times, we want to ensure physicians on the front lines can focus solely on providing patient care. 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,” said Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health.
“We appreciate the removal of the complex (time) modifier from Alberta Health’s physician funding framework. This is a significant step in supporting patients and physicians. 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,” said Dr. Christine Molnar, president, Alberta Medical Association
A physician compensation advisory committee will be created to examine all aspects of the physician services funding model and make recommendations supporting the delivery of high-quality patient-focused health services to Albertans.
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.
Alternatives to fee-for-service and complex modifiers will be developed with the assistance of the physician compensation advisory committee.
The physician compensation advisory committee will be made up of the public, physicians and Alberta Health.