Medicare advocates call for Health Canada investigation into Copeman Healthcare Centre’s member-only "concierge medicine" model

VANCOUVER, Jan. 31 /CNW/ - Concerned patient advocates, doctors and federal health critic MPs are calling on Ottawa to take action on the for-profit Copeman Healthcare Centre — a member-only primary care clinic based in Vancouver and Calgary.

Copeman charges an up-front access fee of $3,900 and ongoing fees of $2,900 per year that allow for preferred access to medical practitioners working there, the majority of whom bill the public health insurance plan for their services while only seeing patients who are members of the exclusive clinic.

The BC Health Coalition has received numerous complaints from members of the public who have been denied insured medical services because they are unable to pay the thousands of dollars in additional fees charged by the Copeman Centres.

"This is an issue of access to insured medical services on the basis of need," said BCHC co-chair Rachel Tutte. "Health Canada must make it clear to provincial health ministries that charging access fees for membership in a primary care clinic violates the Canada Health Act requirement to provide
health services on uniform terms that do not impede access," she said.

"Every time Copeman opens in a community it poaches family doctors and other professionals from that community, leaving patients who cannot afford its exorbitant fees without a family doctor," said Dr. Nora Etches of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. "Charging large block fees and linking medically
unnecessary services to necessary ones undermines Medicare," she added.

"The appearance of concierge medical clinics such as Copeman is troubling, because it will likely lead to the erosion of the overall quality of health care in this country, and privilege some Canadians over others based on ability to pay," said federal NDP Health Critic Megan Leslie.

"Nobody in Canada should be able to charge patients for medically necessary procedures, whether routinely or on a priority basis," said Liberal Health Critic Ujjal Dosanjh in a letter to federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. "I ask that Health Canada investigate this clinic to determine whether it violates the principles of the Canada Health Act," he added.

The calls come on the heels of a Quebec public health insurance board investigation into Medisys 123 and other concierge primary care clinics operating in that province, and follow last October's promises by Health Canada to investigate Sentinelle Health Group in Ottawa.

"There have already been calls for Health Canada to take action on Sentinelle in Ottawa and Medisys 123 in Quebec — it's time to add Copeman to that list," said Tutte.

SOURCE British Columbia Health Coalition

For further information:

Lew MacDonald, Coordinator, BC Health Coalition: 604-787-6541 (cell)

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