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October 04, 2021

Are more doctors instituting annual patient fees?

Aah, another growth industry.

Ad An increasing number of primary-care physicians are hitting their patients with a new charge: an annual "administrative fee" of $100 to $300 to help them defray the costs of running their practice.

It's not not clear how many doctors are charging extra fees, but the number seems to growing -- as are the fees, say health critics.

And some practioners do seem to be taking things to extremes. A Toronto doctor will face a disciplinary hearing for charging patients a $1,000 a year to receive care. And there are those collection agencies.

There are now at least four companies specializing in helping doctors collect annual fees from patients, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal

According to official guidelines, legitimate fees generally cover the amount of time doctors or their assistants spend giving medical advice over the phone, e-mailing patients, providing sick notes, maintaining medical records, renewing prescriptions and tallying missed appointments.

Sounds fair, after all no one works for free, and you could end up paying less than you would in an ad hoc arrangement, say doctors

But, “in some cases, it’s going far beyond the ostensible reason doctors need to charge fees and it’s about a separate income,” says Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

Patients feel compelled to pay annual fees to ensure that they continue to have the services of a doctor, Mehra adds. “Patients think: ‘If I don’t pay this, am I going to lose my family doctor?’ Or: ‘Am I going to be dropped to the bottom of the list’?”

Is that how you feel? Are you paying annual fee? What happens to this money at the end of year if you don't need these services?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...