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Full reimbursement promised to HSC patients who paid for abortion pills

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/10/2017 (424 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Anyone who paid directly for a medical abortion at Health Science Centre that they shouldn’t have been charged for will be reimbursed, Manitoba’s minister responsible for the status of women said Wednesday.

The Free Press learned this week that some patients paid up front for the service at HSC between July 19 and Oct. 2 — despite a provincial regulation stipulating the service would be provided for free.

The WRHA has not explained why it made the error, even though it received a provincial letter of direction in July telling it “to include medical abortions as an immediate option for women, at no personal out-of-pocket cost.”

“I can assure you that our officials are going to be doing some communication and outreach to ensure that they are reimbursed,” Minister of the Status of Women Rochelle Squires told reporters Wednesday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/10/2017 (424 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Anyone who paid directly for a medical abortion at Health Science Centre that they shouldn’t have been charged for will be reimbursed, Manitoba’s minister responsible for the status of women said Wednesday.

The Free Press learned this week that some patients paid up front for the service at HSC between July 19 and Oct. 2 — despite a provincial regulation stipulating the service would be provided for free.

The WRHA has not explained why it made the error, even though it received a provincial letter of direction in July telling it "to include medical abortions as an immediate option for women, at no personal out-of-pocket cost."

"I can assure you that our officials are going to be doing some communication and outreach to ensure that they are reimbursed," Minister of the Status of Women Rochelle Squires told reporters Wednesday. 

It’s unclear exactly how many people are affected. Squires said during that period, 25 patients received medical abortions — meaning they aborted the fetus using the two-drug combination sold under the name Mifegymiso, rather than via a surgical procedure — and most of them had third-party insurance.

However, she said it’s not easy to provide exact numbers since those people would have been prescribed Mifegymiso by their doctors, then taken the prescriptions to be filled and paid for at pharmacies at a cost of $350.

Since Oct. 2, HSC’s practice has been to prescribe and then directly provide the drugs, eliminating the need for patients to go to a pharmacy. Still, that doesn’t explain why the patients were billed in the first place.

"The breakdown in communication is something I’m very disappointed in," Squires said. "We’re working with our officials to ensure that this does not happen again."

The other two locations designated to provide medical abortions free of charge — Winnipeg’s Women’s Health Clinic and Brandon Regional Health Centre — have yet to start offering the procedure. Prairie Mountain Health cited a nationwide Mifegymiso shortage for its delay in Brandon; the drugs’ manufacturer said Tuesday the shortage is now over.

And the Women’s Health Clinic said confusion over the government’s directive played a large role in the delay at that facility.

While the government instructed the three facilities to start offering the service at no charge to patients, it also ordered the treatment be provided "within existing global funding," meaning there would be no additional money available to pay for the service.

Theresa Oswald, director of the Women’s Health Clinic, said that would prove a little trickier for the facility, given it would need to cover the costs associated with offering a different type of abortion. The clinic and the WRHA cleared up the funding confusion earlier this week and the clinic expects to start offering medical abortions next month.

Squires said there was no additional funding allocated to the three facilities because the government expects patients will choose one type of abortion or another.

"We don’t anticipate that there’s a volume spike," she said. "We want the service providers to offer this option to women and to be able to do with the existing funds that they are receiving." 

jane.gerster@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 9:38 AM CDT: Corrects that Rochelle Squires is Minister of the Status of Women

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