Improving Albertans’ access to doctors
To help increase patient access to physicians, there will no longer be a daily cap on the number of visits a physician can fully bill.
During the negotiations with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), Alberta’s government heard that Alberta’s doctors could safely see more patients than the current cap allowed.
Albertans want to know that they can see a doctor when they need one, and physicians want to be able to provide Albertans with the health-care services they need. By changing the daily cap policy, some of the immediate pressures for services provided by general practitioners and specialists, including pediatricians and ophthalmologists, will be addressed. By lifting the cap, physicians will be fully compensated for every visit rather than receiving a discounted rate if they provide more than 50 visit services in one day, which is the current practice.
“We’re moving forward to implement the new agreement, starting with ending the daily visit services cap policy and working to put rate increases in place. We’ve heard from some physicians that the daily visit cap was having a negative impact on patient access, so this change addresses those concerns. It is also part of the new agreement with the AMA where we are listening to physicians and working with them as partners moving forward.”
“The AMA agreement allows physicians and government to work together on challenges facing patients and physicians in the health-care system. This early step to remove the services cap is an important example that will allow more physicians to care for more patients while helping to stabilize physician practices.”
Lump sum payment
The agreement between the AMA and the province also includes a one per cent rate increase in each of the next three years and a one per cent recognition lump sum payment in 2022-23.
Alberta physicians were at the forefront of the pandemic and the one-time payment for eligible practising physicians is in recognition of that work during the 2021-22 fiscal year. This lump sum payment is approximately $45 million and will go to the AMA to distribute to their members by the end of 2022.
In addition to the lump sum payment, the government is working with the AMA to implement the one per cent rate increase for 2022-23. The increase applies to fee-for-service and alternative relationship plan rates, providing an additional $46 million to physicians.
As outlined in the AMA agreement, the rate increase is heavily weighted to specialties facing the greatest pressures, such as family medicine. Alberta’s government and the AMA are working together to distribute these increases across and within specialties. Increases will be effective April 1, 2022, and are expected to be finalized by March 31, 2023.
- The daily visit services cap policy was introduced as part of the Physician Funding Framework in 2020.
- The intent of the policy was to support quality patient care by reducing physician burnout while addressing fiscal constraint for the province.
- It applies to all physician services that are defined in the Schedule of Medical Benefits (SOMB) as “visits” with a “V” category code that physicians provide to patients in person, including physician office visits, consultations and counselling services. Procedures and tests that physicians provide are not billed as visits.
- Under the current policy, physicians are compensated 100 per cent for up to 50 visit services billings in a day, 50 per cent for between 51 and 65 visit services, and there is no compensation for visit services billings greater than 66.
- Physicians working in rural and remote areas, hospital visits and virtual care are exempt from the current policy.
- The policy change (to lift the cap) aligns Alberta with most other jurisdictions.
- Alberta Health is working on updating the SOMB and billing system to operationalize this change. A Medical Bulletin and a new SOMB will be posted when information technology changes are complete.
- The daily visit services cap policy change will be reviewed and its impacts assessed before determining the future policy beyond the current fiscal year.
Rebels earn 5 of 6 points on the weekend – Christmas gift tickets come with a team toque!
Rebels This Week submitted by the Red Deer Rebels
The Rebels earned five of a possible six points during their recent three-game weekend.
After dropping a hard fought 3-2 shootout decision to the Medicine Hat Tigers at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Friday, the Rebels returned to form with a dominant 6-1 home win the following night over the Prince Albert Raiders.
On Sunday, the Rebels came away from Calgary with a 3-2 overtime win over the Hitmen at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
TOP OF THE CENTRAL
The Rebels continue to sit atop the standings in the WHL Central Division thanks to a 18-4-0-3 record for 39 points. The Lethbridge Hurricanes are next with 29 points followed by the Calgary Hitmen with 28.
After a lot of time on the road throughout November, the Rebels get to enjoy some extended time at home to begin December.
This coming weekend brings home games at the Peavey Mart Centrium versus the Saskatoon Blades (Fri. Dec. 2) and Moose Jaw Warriors (Sat. Dec. 3). Both games start at 7 p.m. with tickets available at reddeerrebels.com and ticketsalberta.com. Both the Blades and Warriors will be visiting Red Deer for the first time this season. The Rebels are 2-0 versus Moose Jaw and have yet to play Saskatoon.
Kai Uchacz has six points in his last four games, including three points last Saturday versus Prince Albert. He leads all Rebels players with 30 points this season and is second in the WHL with 18 goals.
Hunter Mayo is tied for first amongst all WHL defenceman with 10 goals on the season, including seven power play tallies. Mayo scored twice versus Calgary on Sunday, including the overtime winner.
Forward Kalan Lind has five points in his last two games.
HOCKEY FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Give the gift of an experience with a night out at the Rebels game! This holiday package includes your choice of grey or black toque with either two or four game night vouchers to be used at any 2022-2023 regular season game. Each voucher may be used for a single ticket of any type of admission to a 2022-2023 regular season Rebels game redeemable through the Tickets Alberta box office in the Peavey Mart Centrium.
Alberta bans masking mandates in schools, guarantees in-person learning
Edmonton – The Alberta government says school boards can’t require students to wear masks in school or be forced to take classes online.
In a release, the government says it has made regulatory changes that guarantee students have access to in-person learning.
The changes also say that students cannot be denied in-person education by school authorities due to their personal decision to wear or not wear a mask.
Last week, the Edmonton public school board asked Alberta Health and Alberta Education whether it can require masks as schools deal with a wave of viral illnesses that is sending thousands of students home sick and straining hospitals.
Premier Danielle Smith says the changes go into effect immediately and will create an inclusive environment by ensuring personal and family choices are respected.
Smith has been critical of mask rules in schools, saying they have adversely affected the mental health, development and education of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Parents and students have told me time and time again that they want a normal school environment for their kids,” Smith said in a release Thursday. “We have taken steps to protect and enhance educational choice.
“Families are free to make their own personal health decisions, and, no matter what that decision is, it will be supported by Alberta’s education system.”
The government said the in-person learning change applies to grades 1-12 in all school settings, including public, separate, francophone, public charter and independent schools.
The masking change applies to those same grades and schools, but also to early childhood services.
NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said the changes show the government doesn’t have a clue about what’s happening in Alberta schools.
“We know that respiratory illness outbreaks have been widespread this fall, causing intense stress and increased challenges for students, staff, and families,” Hoffman said in a release.
“School districts are struggling to staff classrooms as illness moves through students and employees.”
Hoffman said it is unrealistic to expect that school districts can staff in-person and online classes simultaneously with no additional resources.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2022
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