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The government of the Canadian province of Quebec plans to start paying for advanced imaging that takes place in privately owned clinics—although the provincial radiologists’ association opposes the move.

Currently, under Canada’s publicly funded health-care system, Quebec’s health insurance pays for advanced imaging only if it takes place in a hospital. The only imaging that’s covered in a freestanding private clinic is a regular X-ray.

The Gazette of Montreal reported last week that wait times for ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans can be as long as two years in hospitals, compared with less than a day in private clinics. But at the clinics, patients without private insurance pay $700 to $1,000 out of their own pockets for MRIs.

The Quebec Medical Association and three other medical groups called last week for the province to pay for advanced imaging in private clinics. Said association President Ruth Vander Stelt, MD:

Going to the patient and saying, ‘Do you think you could pay?’—I mean, it’s awful. It’s against everything that I’ve been taught and everything I do.

In response, Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert, MD, said the government would start doing so, eventually, beginning with ultrasound sometime later this spring—details to come. He told Canada’s CBC News:

Our objective is to improve the access of patients in Quebec to imagery, specialized X-rays, and echography.

CBC News added: “However, he was vague on the details of how quickly the government will be able to roll out its plan.”

Frédéric Desjardins, MD, president of the Quebec Association of Radiologists, said he wasn’t convinced paying for scans at private facilities would actually reduce wait times for advanced imaging. “You’re just changing the person who is paying for the exam,” he said. “You do not produce any more exams.”

He suggested instead that the government pay for hiring and training more technologists to help radiologists at hospitals. That, he said, would increase scans by up to 40 percent a year.

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Related seminar: UCSF Radiology Review: CLINICAL HIGHLIGHTS

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