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  • Writer's pictureJessica Smith Cross

Are these private-pay health care clinics legal? The minister of health won't say

Some new clinics are taking advantage of the family doctor shortage to charge patients

February 29, 2024

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones attend an announcement at Seneca College, in King City, Ont., Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. Chris Young/The Canadian Press

A new private medical clinic in Ancaster, Ont., is welcoming patients to come and see a nurse practitioner for issues they might be accustomed to going to a doctor for — a cough, sore throat, ear infection, and so on.

But instead of showing their OHIP card and billing the Ontario government, those patients will need their credit card, or cash, to pay the $80 fee for an episodic visit, according to the clinic's website. Alternatively, they can pay a subscription fee of $400 plus tax per year for adults and $300 for kids, according to its website.

The clinic spells out why on its website: "Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are not covered by OHIP. It is legal for an NP to bill patients privately for health care services."

It's one of several new clinics operating under a similar business model — one that's made possible because so many Ontarians don't have a regular, government-funded primary care provider, so they're willing to pay.

The clinics say they're legal because the Canada Health Act only prohibits charging patients for services covered by provincial medicare programs, and nurse practitioners in private clinics cannot bill OHIP.

But advocates for public medicare argue that it is against the law — that nurse practitioners can't charge patients for medical services that would be covered by OHIP if provided by a physician. 


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