Most of the change unveiled on Thursday would see OHIP decline to pay physicians for providing certain services unless there is an urgent medical need to deviate from the new normal.
Loop recorders used for cardiac monitoring and post-coital testing of cervical mucous for infertility will no longer be covered by OHIP — two of the 11 changes lined up for implementation on Oct. 1, as part of the first phase examination of Ontario’s health care coverage system.
OHIP will continue to pay doctors to administer blood tests to determine pregnancy, but it will not ensure urine dipstick tests unless “there is an immediate need to determine pregnancy to prevent imminent harm to the patient.”
Patients with uncomplicated hip and knee pain may also find it more difficult to get an MRI or CT scan as part of an effort to reserve joint scans for “those who truly need them.”
Ontario physicians were awarded their first contract with the province in four years this February, settled by an arbiter after a protracted and, at times, thorny dispute. The review of OHIP services was part of that agreement.
The arbitration panel directed the parties to set up an “appropriateness working group” that was supposed to find $100-million savings for the remainder of this fiscal year – or $120-million on an annual basis – and another $360-million for the following year.
The recommendations revealed on Thursday have already been accepted by the provincial health ministry and the Ontario Medical Association. The list was put forward by a working group of physicians and government officials, who have been digging through the OHIP system for potential cost-saving changes since the spring.
Ontario’s health ministry said on Thursday that the changes would save an estimated $83 million and that the working group was aiming to identify another $360 million heading forward. The group is looking to agree upon “additional initiatives” by January, ministry spokesperson Anna Miller told iPolitics.
NDP Health critic France Gélinas criticized the process being followed by the working group on Thursday.
“Reviewing OHIP to ensure Ontario is using best practices and up-to-date procedures to care for Ontarians is fine. Working backwards from a cut predetermined by the Doug Ford administration is not,” she wrote in a statement.