Ministry health

No tests recently removed from OHIP coverage, department says amid reports of blood work accusations

Ontario’s Ministry of Health says there have been no reductions in blood tests covered by the province in recent years, after a series of viral social media posts in which people said they were charged for laboratory work.

In a statement released this week, the department said that since 2017, no lab tests have been removed from the OHIP benefit list for laboratory services.

“The Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act (CFMA) prohibits charges by any person or entity for insured services or for access to insured services,” the statement said.

He adds that if a patient feels they have been charged for an insured service, they can call the MFDA Program Reporting Line at 1-888-662-6613 or email [email protected].

The bulk of routine lab tests ordered by doctors in the province are covered by OHIP, but some tests fall outside that umbrella that patients must pay out of pocket.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, told CBC News in an interview that for a week now her organization has been “absolutely inundated” with calls and messages on the issue.

Yet when the coalition investigated, it found no legitimate reports of people having to pay out-of-pocket due to expunged tests under OHIP. Instead, she said, the tests ended up looking at things that weren’t fully covered, or there were changes in fees that weren’t properly explained to patients.

Ultimately, there is “no evidence” the province made the changes to testing coverage that are alleged online, Mehra said.

“We would be the first to plead if there were, but that’s just not the case,” she said.

To make sure, Mehra said she also spoke with several oncologists, as well as family physicians and chiefs of staff at two Ontario hospitals. None of them knew about the lab tests they had ordered to have their patients taken off the list. Likewise, no one could find any memo marking a change, which would normally be the case in a situation like this.

“I think it’s just a rumor going a little crazy,” she said.

Lab testing company Lifelabs, which says it manages lab testing services for more than 50,000 patients a day in Ontario, also said in a statement that the province controls which tests are covered by OHIP, and that there were “no lab tests removed from the list”. (i.e. retired without replacement testing) within the last five years.

“LifeLabs cannot bill OHIP-covered individuals for OHIP-covered tests,” the statement said.