Alberta may join Ontario in fight against doctors’ fees

Ontario may soon have allies in its fight to claw back fees for some physicians. Alberta, which recently gave doctors an $181 million raise, has signalled it too is looking to cut costs, joining B.C., Nova Scotia and Manitoba in the battle against the (medical fee) bulge, according to a story in Wednesday’s Globe.

The Globe’s Adam Radwanski, meanwhile, has a good breakdown of exactly who stands to lose money under the Ontario plan, and why:

Three groups of specialists – radiologists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists – have seen their pay rise astronomically since the 1990s, largely because advances in technology have enabled them to perform more procedures than previously. Now, Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals want to cut their rates by double-digit percentages, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in savings. It’s not the only measure aimed at freezing the total amount spent on doctors’ wages, which effectively means a cut to per-doctor spending, but it’s the largest one.

It’s easy to see where the government is coming from. Cataract surgeons are acknowledged even by many doctors to be overpaid, with some making more than $1-million annually. Diagnostic radiologists join them in averaging more than $650,000 in annual fees, making them the two highest-paid groups of doctors. Cardiologists aren’t much behind, averaging nearly $600,000 annually. Even subtracting overhead costs that doctors pay, that’s a lot of money for fairly straightforward work, by medical standards.