Letter to the EditorThe Toronto Star
OMA says it supports transparency on billings, June 29
Thank you for the recent opportunity to answer some additional questions your reporters had about doctors' billings. I am writing to clarify our position.
The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) was not opposed to transparency when it challenged the Toronto Star's quest for OHIP billing information. The OMA's position from the outset has been to strike the right balance between transparency, accountability, and a measure of privacy for individual doctors, with the appropriate context and under legislation. Our past president, Dr. Nadia Alam, is on the record stating that, including in a piece in your paper this past April, 2019.
The Star's Freedom of Information request was for the top 100 physicians' billings. From our perspective, and as we have often said, focusing only on one-third of one percent of Ontario's 31,500 practising physicians would provide a very skewed view of what physicians are paid.
It's important to understand that physicians are not government employees. They are independent small business owners. OHIP billings are not salaries. Billings are gross earnings out of which physicians must pay all operating expenses including office space, staff salaries, medical equipment and more.
We've also consistently said that if billings are to be disclosed, it should be done by the government in an orderly and consistent way. In 2016, our submission to the Information and Privacy Commissioner stated that, "We thus respectfully submit that the decision to publish physician billing information should not be in the hands of the courts or administrative tribunals, but rather in those of the legislature, which is elected. If the sitting government wishes to pass legislation mandating physician billing disclosure by name, it has the purview to do so."
The public should absolutely be able to see where their tax dollars are going. Providing the full picture, in an orderly way, will help ensure physician billing disclosure is transparent - and meaningful.
Dr. Sohail Gandhi, president of the OMA