Provincial government increasing Albertans’ access to physicians

The daily capacity limit of physician visits has been removed.

A new agreement between the provincial government and Alberta Medical Association (AMA) is removing patient capacity limits, to increase access to physicians for Albertans.

Changing the daily capacity policy will allow physicians to be fully compensated for every visit, rather than receiving a discount rate if they provide more than 50 services in one day, a government of Alberta media release said.

“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,” Minister of Health Jason Copping said.

During negotiations with the AMA, it was determined that doctors could see more patients safely than the current capacity allowed.

“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,” AMA president, Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi said.

The daily visit capacity policy was first implemented in 2020, as part of the Physician Funding Framework, to support quality patient care, reduce physician burnout, and address fiscal constraints.

The policy applies to all physicians that provide care to patients in person, and offer office visits, consultations and counselling services.

Physicians working in rural and remote areas, hospital visits, virtual care, and procedures and tests that physicians provide are exempt from the current policy.

The current policy allows physicians to be compensated 100 per cent for up to 50 visit services in one day50 per cent for between 51 and 65 visit services, and no compensation for more than 66 visit services.

The new agreement between the AMA and the provincial government includes a one per cent increase in each of the next three years, providing an additional $46 million to physicians, the release said.

In addition, a $45 million lump sum payment will be distributed by the AMA to members by the end of 2022, in recognition of physicians being at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the work done during the fiscal year.

“The rate increase is heavily weighted to specialties facing the greatest pressures, such as family medicine,” the release said. “Alberta’s government and the AMA are working together to distribute these increases across and within specialties.”

The increase is expected to be finalized by March 2023.

The daily visit service capacity policy change and the impacts will be reviewed before the next fiscal year.

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