The recent revelations that a Calgary health clinic advertising a membership based fee structure have drawn the attention of Health Canada.

This story also appeared in LiveWire Calgary

Health Canada confirmed to LWC that they have contacted Alberta officials, specifically in regards to a Marda Loop clinic, to inform them that patients paying for preferential healthcare access is contrary to the Canada Health Act.

“Canadians should have access to primary health care services based on medical need and not on their ability, or willingness, to pay,” said Health Canada in an email to LWC.

The Marda Loop Health Clinic declined to comment when contacted by LWC.

Health Canada said that the Government of Canada will uphold the Canada Health Act to ensure that patients do not face barriers when accessing medically necessary health care.

“Membership fees at private clinics, for preferential access to insured health services, are considered patient charges under the Canada Health Act and raise concerns under the accessibility requirement of the Act,” said Health Canada.

The act requires a mandatory deduction from federal health transfer payments to provinces or territories if patients are made to pay for publicly funded services.

Health Canada said they are working collaboratively with the province of Alberta to ensure the clinic’s patients continue to receive medically necessary services free of charge, as per the act.

Premier Danielle Smith said on July 25 that they would be launching an Alberta Health investigation into the clinic to ensure that the provisions of the Canada Health Act, and the provinces’ Alberta Health Care Insurance Act.

NDP continues to criticize government over membership fees

Alberta NDP Critic for Health, Primary and Rural Care, David Shepherd, continued the conversation regarding concerns over alleged membership fees for a Calgary health clinic.

In an email provided by the party, said to be from the clinic and sent to a current patient, memberships fees would range from $2,400 for a single patient to $4,800 for a two-patient family with dependants. For two adults without dependants, the cost would be $4,000.

Shepherd said this clinic isn’t alone in advertising for membership fees, and criticized the government for saying they would be investigating the Marda Loop clinic and not other membership based clinics in the province.

“Now while that investigation is necessary, it’s not nearly broad enough, because we believe there are at least 14 other clinics throughout Alberta that are engaging in similar practices of members-only medicine.”

“The investigation into Marta Loop Medical Clinic is welcome. We need a system-wide investigation today. They need to step up and fulfill that promise that no Albertan will pay to see a doctor or to get the public health care they deserve.”

Shedperd said that a report from the Journal of Healthcare Policy revealed 14 clinics in the province with differing versions of membership fees for patients.

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Isabella West is a fourth-year Journalism student at MRU. She completed her work term over the summer of 2023 at LiveWire Calgary in partnership with the Calgary Journal.