Diagnostic imaging de-funding creates red tape, barriers to health care

Effective March 31, 2020, claims for chiropractic-ordered diagnostic imaging services will no longer be covered by the Alberta Health Insurance Plan. 

What’s the issue?

In December 2019, the ACAC became aware of a proposal from Alberta Health that would remove the ability for chiropractors and physiotherapists to refer to publicly-funded diagnostic imaging services.

Dr. Brad Kane, Chair of the ACAC, highlighted the challenges this proposal brings if passed in his segment on Global News: “This change adds barriers to access and also creates out-of-pocket costs for patients, which is difficult to understand given the Alberta economy. This is the wrong move for Albertans, and chiropractors are significantly concerned about the unintended consequences for patients.”

What does this mean?

Patients will either have to pay out of pocket, use third-party insurance or be referred to their family physician to receive publicly-funded diagnostic imaging when they go to their chiropractor.

The goal of the proposal is cost-savings. The problem is that while there’s a front-end cost savings appeal, this is quickly overshadowed due to costs associated with the new physician referral requirement, meaning that the proposal would end up costing more money overall.

In conjunction with the cost increase, this proposal will have negative impacts on Albertans by:

  • Decreasing timely and efficient access to appropriate, publicly-funded diagnostic imaging while increasing the unintentional ordering of inappropriate imaging;
  • Increasing wait times for assessment, diagnosis and conservative intervention;
  • Resulting in referrals for more aggressive forms of treatment such as pharmaceutical interventions (opioid prescription) and surgery.

What's next?

While we recognize the government’s commitment to balancing the budget, this change will ultimately create barriers to care, increase wait times, increase costs to the system, negatively impact employers and worsen patient outcomes. If reducing red tape is a government priority, we urge them to rethink this proposal.

Media info

ACAC information:

Media release

Media fact sheet