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Toronto hospital network apologizes after patients charged for test covered by OHIP

Posted: July 14, 2023

(July 12, 2023)

By: CBC News

A woman wearing a black baseball cap looks forward.
Akio Maroon, a patient at Toronto General Hospital, said she had to draw attention to a mistake the hospital made in charging patients for a test covered by OHIP. (Doug Husby/CBC)

A Toronto hospital network is apologizing and issuing refunds after it charged patients for a test covered by OHIP, which is against the law.

The University Health Network released a statement on Wednesday after patients at a Toronto General Hospital clinic were told they needed to pay for a balance test normally covered under Ontario’s health insurance plan.

“This is a mistake on our part and we are addressing this directly with our patients including full reimbursement of any payments already made,” UHN said on Twitter.

The patient who reported the charge to the province said the mistake highlights how many Ontarians are left on their own to navigate the health-care system.

“This should have never happened. It’s not up to the patients to do the administrative part of the health care, we pay enough taxes, we do our due diligence,” Akio Maroon told CBC News.

Maroon tweeted about the charges after she received an email from Toronto General Hospital notifying her about a series of tests for vertigo, she said.

One of the tests, the video head impulse test or VHIT, examines a person’s sense of balance. Maroon was told via email that OHIP did not cover the test as of July 1 and that it would cost her $120.

In a statement to CBC Toronto Wednesday, the hospital network said the charge was due to a “communication and interpretation error with the physicians practice and billings department around covered and uncovered services.”

“We sincerely apologize for the concern this caused our patient,” it said.

No coverage changes to the test under OHIP: ministry

With Maroon unable to work and her finances tight, she tweeted about the cost to see if others had a similar experience and to find out the cost was valid, she said.

She had planned to pay because her doctor made it clear the test was needed to determine if she had vertigo, she said.

Maroon’s tweet sparked a conversation on perceived changes within Ontario’s health-care system, particularly as the province passed legislation in May  allowing private clinics to offer publicly funded surgeries. Maroon said her initial assumption was that the charge was due to health-care cuts.

Toronto general hospital is pictured
A view of Toronto General Hospital on Aug. 4, 2022. The University Health Network, which TGH is under, issued an apology for charging patients for the test covered by OHIP on Wednesday. (Carlos Osorio/CBC)

On Wednesday afternoon, the Ministry of Health tweeted there have been no coverage changes to the test under OHIP. “vHIT, including required equipment, staff and supplies is an insured service when medically necessary or rendered by an audiologist on staff,” it said.

It also said patients should call 1-888-662-6613 or contact if they are being charged for an OHIP covered service, as it’s against the law.

The Ontario Health Coalition, an advocacy organization that aims to protect and improve the province’s health-care system, told CBC Toronto that it has recently received “a historically high number of complaints” about “various” tests not being covered by OHIP.

Maroon said the overwhelming response she received from people across Ontario and Canada indicates there’s frustration around the health-care system and many don’t have the means to cover surprise costs or find mistakes. While she’s relieved the issue was resolved— she is concerned patients have to spot these mistakes themselves.

“Not everyone has the same ability to advocate for themselves,” she said.

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