As part of the new agreement between the Alberta government and the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), the Business Costs Program will see an increase of $20 million annually. This is in addition to about $80 million the government currently invests in the program each year. On average, it will mean an extra $2,300 annually for each physician.
“Family physicians are vital to our communities, yet, as with many businesses, they have to face the realities of rising costs – which could lead to them needing to find other arrangements to continue practising. Investing in this and other programs is an investment in the future of community practices across the province, our physicians and the long-term health of all Albertans.”
“Steeply rising business costs are a major challenge for physicians who need to maintain their offices and cover expenses such as staffing, billing services and accounting, rent, utilities, office supplies, medical equipment, office maintenance and improvement, licensure, insurance, etc. Business costs were a priority for the AMA in reaching the new agreement. This increase to the Business Costs Program will be very helpful although it cannot fully offset recent inflationary pressures for physicians.”
The program eases the pressures of physicians’ business costs in office-based practices and diagnostic facilities, particularly family physicians and specialists who face greater impacts from rising business costs. An additional rate is applied to some office-based patient services in addition to the basic rate.
Alberta Health and the AMA will review the program over the next two years to modernize it. This will include assessing eligibility criteria, parameters, incentive mechanisms and rates.
Continuing Medical Education program
There is also progress in carrying out other physician support programs under the new agreement. The Continuing Medical Education program reimburses physicians for their costs to meet continuous professional development. It is reinstated and now open for retroactive payments for 2021-22 through Alberta Health. As well, the reimbursable amount for the current year (2022-23) will increase to $2,200 from $2,100 for each eligible physician. This increase will cost the government approximately $1.4 million annually.
Medical Liability Reimbursement program
The deductible for 5,000 physicians will decrease under the Medical Liability Reimbursement program. The $1,000 deductible will be reinstated. The program provides partial reimbursement to eligible physicians for medical liability protection fees. The change is expected to cost the government an additional $9 million annually.
The Business Costs Program was introduced in 2007 to help ease physicians’ business costs, including the increasing cost of real estate and other overhead costs in community practices and diagnostic facilities. The payment rate will increase to $3.59 from $2.95 retroactive to April 1, 2022.
The medical liability deductible reduction will largely apply to urban specialists, as family physicians and all rural physicians currently pay a $1,000 deductible.
Physicians who were reimbursed for 2022 based on a higher deductible will receive an additional reimbursement from Alberta Health. Further details will be provided as they become available.
The AMA will take over administration of the Medical Liabilty Reimbursement program from the government in 2023.
The 2022-23 Continuing Medical Education program will be administered by the AMA through a government grant. More information will be issued when the program is available and the grant between the AMA and Alberta Health is finalized.