We’ve made some long overdue changes to Alberta’s physician pay model.
Not surprisingly, our work has sparked a lot of discussion. Unfortunately, not all of the discussion has been accurate. So, I want to take this opportunity to clear up some myths and misrepresentations, and present some facts:
Myth: The government is cutting doctor pay.
Fact: Budget 2020 maintains $5.4 billion for physician compensation, a record high. But without changes to how doctors are paid, their compensation will cost tax payers $2 billion more over the next three years. These dollars will be better invested in improving patient care and health outcomes.
Myth: Doctors will have less time to spend with their patients because of these changes.
Fact*: We had simply asked physicians to spend 10 more minutes with complex patients before receiving top ups, but some physicians perceived this as limiting the time they could spend with patients. We heard all perspectives and it appeared top ups have become a way for physicians to get paid for time and not complexity.
To further examine this issue and ensure physicians can focus solely on providing patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have cancelled the changes to complex modifiers as announced in the March 17 news release.
Moving forward, we are creating a Physician Compensation Advisory Committee made up of the public, physicians and representatives from Alberta Health to provide advice for this and other changes to how physicians are paid.
Myth: Doctors will no longer be paid for the overhead costs of running their office.
Fact: Doctors who run their own practice face a number of overhead costs, including leases, hiring staff and purchasing equipment. They will still be compensated for these costs. But we are ending these payments for physicians who work in AHS facilities, where AHS already pays for those overhead costs. Physicians who rent or lease clinic space from Alberta Health Services will still be paid for their overhead costs.
Myth: The government is limiting the number of patients a doctor can see.
Fact: We are introducing a reasonable cap on the number of patients a doctor can bill for in a single day. That cap is a common-sense limit of 65 patients a day. For a doctor to treat this number of patients, they would need to treat one patient every ten minutes for 10 hours straight. Anything more would not be good medical practice.
Myth: The government refuses to work with the Alberta Medical Association on changes.
Fact: As Health Minister, I have been abundantly clear that my door is always open to the AMA and I am committed to consulting with them as we move forward. I remain steadfast in my commitment to Albertans so that they receive quality care from physicians across the province.
I appreciate that change isn’t easy. But it’s worth emphasizing that doctors in Alberta will remain among the highest paid physicians in Canada. And Alberta will remain the lowest-taxed province in Canada.
And at the end of the day, the changes and related cost savings we’ve put in place will start to free up resources we can reinvest to improve health outcomes and patient care. I know that’s something all Albertans – and all physicians – can get behind.
I have been abundantly clear that my door is always open to the AMA and we’ve committed to consulting with them as we move forward. And I remain steadfast in my commitment to Albertans so that they receive quality care from physicians across the province.
*Editor’s note: This article was updated on April 6, 2020 to reflect complex modifier changes announced on March 17, 2020.