The Alberta government, fresh off failed contract talks with doctors, is ending its long-standing master agreement with them and putting new rules in place April 1.
Changes include new fee rules on extended patient visits that doctors have already said will devastate the bottom line for some family and rural practices.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro says ending the agreement is a difficult but necessary move, given that the province was at an impasse with doctors on how to reduce costs and improve service in the $20.6-billion health system.
“It’s not a decision we take lightly, but since May we’ve been talking to (the Alberta Medical Association) about our fiscal imperative,” said Shandro in an interview Thursday.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t successful in being able to get them to work with us on that issue.”
The current master agreement with physicians ends March 31.
Both sides have tried and failed to agree on new terms in negotiations since November.
Last fall, Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservatives passed Bill 21, which gives the government the right to unilaterally end the agreement.
Starting April 1, physician compensation will remain at its current level of $5.4 billion a year. But the changes are expected to prevent $2 billion in added costs tied to physician services over this current fiscal year and the three after that.
The key change, which has also been the focus of a fiery dispute between doctors and the government, will be to a billing designation known as complex modifiers.
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