An agreement worked out between the province and Alberta doctors to try to slow the increasing cost of health, is now official.
Although the master agreement for doctors doesn’t expire for another two years, the province and the Alberta Medical Association agreed immediate action was needed to slow the growth in health spending, particularly with the financial pressures facing the province.
Dr. Padraic Carr, president of the Alberta Medical Association says this agreement is very much a ‘partnership’ between the government and its doctors.
“From a financial aspect the agreement is the beginning of a rich sharing model. What that means is we’ll be responsible for different parts of the budget. The doctors have agreed to withhold some payments to see if we can achieve some cost saving,” Carr said.
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Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says the budget for doctors has been steadily climbing
“In recent years, growth in the physician services budget has been between 7 per cent and 9 per cent annually,” Hoffman said. “The new amending agreement will slow the rate of growth resulting in potential savings of up to $500 million in just the next two years.”
One of the biggest changes to the agreement is a new compensation model for physicians, in which doctors are rewarded for time and quality of care given to patients, rather than just the number of services provided.
It will also see expanded hours and services at primary health care centres, a plan to help place doctors in communities that need them, new information technology and data-sharing and fee rules changes.
“These savings will be achieved through several key initiatives including a new physician peer-review and accountability mechanism based on evidence and best practices related to physician billings and claims and by involving physicians in developing a list of fee rule changes to be implemented over the next few months,” Hoffman explains.
Hoffman says doctors have agreed to give up ‘retention bonuses’ and a ‘few other pieces’ to bring costs down.