The Toronto Sun
Sunday, March 1, 1998

No health card can cost you

Patients face $250 tab

by Vince Versace

Forgeting your health card the next time you need treatment could cause you a big pain in the wallet.

Starting today, healthcare facilities must ask patients for their health card every time they need care in an effort by the province to cut down on $284 million a year in fraud.

"This new ministry of health policy is intended to make sure the healthcare system is used appropriately", Dr. John Gray, president of the Ontario Medical Association, said. "It is now very important to always carry your health card."

Patients with non-emergency needs could be billed as much as $250 if they receive treatment without a health card.

However, patients requiring emergency treatment will receive it regardless if they have their health card or not.

Onus on doctors

Physicians can validate health cards over the telephone or with a swipe card-reader.

Dr. Ian Nakamura, who runs a family practice in Richmond Hill, said the onus has always been on doctors to check health cards.

Under the new rules his office will be able to check cards, by calling a 1-800 number, but that is time-consuming. He said he will be looking at getting a card swiper.

Nakamura said specialists and emergency room doctors have more of a problem with health-card fraud because they may see patients only once.

The swipe card system has been in use at Women's College Hospital for the last two years. It was one of the first hospitals to use it.

"We've been using it for surgical, daycare, and outpatient clinics purposes. It's easy to use and helps with getting information", emergency ward clerk Bruce McVety said.

Copyright © 1998 by The Toronto Sun. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.