B.C. Medical Services Accuses Telus Health of Extra Billing, Files Court Injunction

Image: Telus; Reception at the TELUS Health Care Centre located on Nelson Street in Vancouver, B.C.

British Columbia’s Medical Services Commission on Thursday filed for a court injunction against Telus Health’s LifePlus program, accusing it of charging customers for services covered under the province’s Medical Services Plan — reports The Canadian Press.

In a petition filed with the B.C. Supreme Court, the Commission argued that the LifePlus program is violating the law by extra-billing for health services already insured by the province. The Commission also claimed that the LifePlus subscription fees — $4,650 for the first year and $3,650 for subsequent years — lead people to believe they will get preferential treatment if they pay.

“It is very important to uphold the Medicare Protection Act, which is in place to preserve our publicly managed, fiscally sustainable, health-care system for British Columbia,” B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Thursday.

“Access to necessary medical care should be based on need and not an individual’s ability to pay.”

Telus LifePlus is a subscription service that promises enhanced and personalized care with “head to toe” checkups and “an in-depth review of lifestyle factors and medical history.” It also offers access to specialists, such as physiotherapists and dietitians, at traditional brick-and-mortar care centers.

The petition for a court injunction comes after B.C.’s Medical Services watchdog started looking into the LifePlus program earlier this year.

At the time, a Telus Health spokesperson told iPhone in Canada that the company was not under investigation. They added that Telus Health was awaiting a formal response from the Commission after catering to its request for information.

Now, Telus is denying the Medical Services Commission’s allegations altogether. It says the LifePlus subscription fees aren’t for primary care at all. Instead, the fees only cover uninsured services like dietitians, kinesiologists, and other health and wellness needs.

In its court filings, however, the Commission referenced a would-be patient and a private investigator who claim they were told they would have to pay the annual LifePlus fee to see a family doctor.

Juggy Sihota, a vice president at Telus Health, said at a news conference on Thursday that family doctors enrolled in the LifePlus program can offer insured services at their offices to people who aren’t subscribed to LifePlus.

“If the physician wants to provide insured services, that’s separate from the service offering that we have,” she said. “They are free to use our premises to be able to provide a primary care insured service for that patient, but that’s outside of the LifePlus program and it’s outside of what Telus Health is providing.”

Sihota added that the Commission’s injunction is unnecessary since the company has cooperated with the inquiry but had not been given the opportunity to discuss the commission’s concerns.

“We’re not aware of any basis for bringing in an injunction application. We believe that doing so is unnecessary given our fully co-operative approach and commitment, of course, to always ensuring regulatory compliance,” she said.

According to Dix, the injunction application only has to do with the LifePlus program and not any other Telus services. He added that the case will be argued in court sometime in the coming weeks.

Back in 2020, Telus Health’s mobile app was investigated by Alberta’s privacy commissioner. The review found that the app was ignoring the province’s privacy laws.