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Ontario doctor billed OHIP for $6.4 million in 2010

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

TORONTO - 

This may sting a bit.

An Ontario doctor — who topped a list of the highest OHIP billers — was paid $6.4 million in a single year, the Toronto Sun has learned.

The next five physicians on the list billed between $3.1 million and $4.5 million.

In total for 2010, 27 physicians in the province received more than $2 million each in annual OHIP fee-for-service payments — a tab that set taxpayers back $74 million.

Sun Media submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the top billers to OHIP, and was given data for the most recent year available.

That FOI did not provide details which would identify the doctors or the nature of their practices. Traditionally, specialists are the top earners.

The documents did reveal that the top 100 OHIP billing doctors each received more than $1.4 million in 2010. The $6.4 million billing alone works out to $17,511 a day for every day of the year.

Dr. Doug Weir, president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), said in a statement that it’s important to understand that OHIP fee payments are not take home pay.

”The average physician billings do not take into account overhead expenses, which are approximately 35 to 40%,” Weir said. “For physicians with above average billings, their office overhead is generally greater than 40%. The expenses incurred by a doctor are no different than overhead expenses incurred by other small independent business owners such as the lease for the building, staffing, staff benefits, equipment, hydro and electricity.

“While it’s easy to sensationalize some of the numbers, a quick review of the data shows that the average total billing for an Ontario doctor after taking into account expenses is about $200,000,” he added.

Doctors who practice in underserviced areas typically have more patients and higher billings, Weir noted.

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews has said that Ontario doctors are the best paid in the country with the average physician earning $385,000 a year.

The OMA is currently embroiled in a battle with the Dalton McGuinty government over stalled compensation talks.

Under the McGuinty government, annual spending on physician compensation has grown to $11 billion from $5.9 billion.

Now, the government is demanding doctors share in the pain of reducing the province’s double-digit deficit.

The doctors have offered a two-year OHIP fee freeze but the province is demanding a cap on total physician compensation and has already cut a number of OHIP fees through regulation.

The OMA launched a Charter challenge this week, arguing the government is bargaining in bad faith and expects doctors to absorb the cost of additional use of the health care system.

It says the concessions demanded by the government add up to a 16% decrease in pay for doctors.

“Over the past couple of years, Ontario’s doctors have worked with the government to reduce fees in certain areas and realign investments,” Weir said. “To date, we have found over $300 million in savings that can be reinvested back into health care. Our offer to accept a freeze on fees and find another $250 in savings was rejected by the government.

“We need to get back to the table and have meaningful discussions about how and where improvements can be made,” Weir said.

 


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