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2024 – Virtual Care in Business

2024 – Virtual Care in Business

(Ottawa) About 10 million people across the country are at risk of losing their employer-provided telemedicine services if the federal government goes ahead and puts the brakes on the privatization of virtual health care. Quebec is condemning this new “unacceptable” intrusion into its jurisdictions. Ottawa was supposed to clarify its intentions in June, but the provinces and the insurance industry are still waiting.




What is there to know

Ottawa has informed provinces that they will have to pay for virtual health care.

According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of Canada, 10 million Canadians could lose telemedicine services provided by their employers.

Quebec believes this would have a negative impact on access to health care for thousands of Quebecers.

“Virtual health services provided by employers are complementary to services provided by the public network. The changes being considered by the federal government would have a negative impact on access to care for hundreds of thousands of Quebecers,” said Audrey Noiseux, press officer for Health Minister Christian Dubé.

These are all people who, for small problems, could further increase the pressure on the health care system, unless the Quebec government is willing to foot the bill.

The federal government should support the health care system by providing a fair share of funding, rather than imposing restrictions.

Audrey Noiseux, press officer for Minister Christian Dubé

Quebec and Ottawa agreed in March to increase health transfers by $900 million annually, without conditions, six times less than what the government of François Legault was demanding.

The press received a letter sent earlier this year by the federal government’s Deputy Minister of Health, Stephen Lucas, to his provincial and territorial counterparts reiterating Ottawa’s intention to end fees charged for virtual health care.

“The federal position is that patients should not have to pay co-pays for medically necessary services when those services would normally be covered if provided in person by a physician,” he wrote.

Ottawa believes that this virtual care in Quebec should be covered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie, regardless of whether it is provided by other health professionals such as nurse practitioners or by a telemedicine service in another province. There is no question of patients paying out of pocket, otherwise federal health transfers would be reduced by an equivalent amount.

Millions of people affected

This new interpretation of the Canadian Health Act The proposed April 2026 law could have unintended consequences, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of Canada warn. It could “inadvertently eliminate access to employer-paid care for an estimated 10 million Canadians,” the two organizations said in a letter published earlier this month. They say Ottawa should exclude virtual health services that are partially paid for by employers from its new interpretation of the law.

“The potential loss of access to employer-paid virtual care would have a significant impact on Canadian employers, employees and our economy,” they note.

Companies such as TELUS Health, Dialogue, Maple and Tia Health offer virtual consultation services for a fee. TELUS Health services are offered in Quebec as part of group insurance plans administered by Desjardins and Beneva, while Dialogue services are offered to Sun Life Financial customers.

“It’s important to know that Dialogue was founded on the Canadian principle that people should never have to pay for health care,” said Medical Director Dr.R Marc Robin.

We therefore believe that the federal government should continue to allow and encourage employers to invest in the physical and mental health of their employees and their families, especially in the current context of the crisis in healthcare accessibility.

The dR Marc Robin, Medical Director of Dialogue

The Benefits Alliance, which represents employment brokers and advisers, wrote to Federal Health Minister Mark Holland to argue that such services are “highly valued” by both employers and employees and help to reduce “pressure” on the health system.

PHOTO SEAN KILPATRICK, CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Canadian Health Minister Mark Holland

In fact, beneficiaries can “get rapid access (often after hours)” without having to travel to walk-in clinics or their doctor.

The letter from Minister Holland, which aims to clarify the interpretation of the Canadian Health Act is still expected. His press secretary, Christopher Aoun, could not say Friday when it would be sent to the provinces and territories. He said the minister had noted concerns about virtual health care provided by employers.