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British Columbians Pay Medical Bills Of Foreigners

Taxpayers in British Columbia (B.C) are bearing the medical expenses of thousands of foreigners who visit the province for health services//. Government officials are looking at ways to sort out this problem.

Health Minister, George Abbott of B.C. said in a report that, $10 million in unpaid bills have piled up due to foreigners who visit the province to receive hospital care. He said that he is prompting health authorities to look at novel ways to restore the money.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority,VIHA, has a registry in place with the Canada Border Service Agency, for more than a decade.

Spokeswoman Suzanne Germain said that, each health authority exercised different methods of dealing with the situation. VIHA notifies immigration authorities if a foreign patient raises suspicions of misusing the health-care system of the province.

If immigration officials get hold of a person trying to enter the province with outstanding bills, amounting to more than $10,000, the health authority is notified and the visitor is made to pay them directly.

"I know of one incident where somebody paid by Visa over the phone from the airport. We don't ask the border (agents) to collect the bills on our behalf." said Germain.

Foreign patients have to pay $600 before receiving medical treatment, and a credit card imprint is taken. However, there are limits on credit cards and Canadian hospitals does not send away patients who do not have the means to pay, and this leaves many hospitals with unpaid bills.

According to Germain, VIHA writes off about $1.1 million a year in unpaid bills, half of which are a due to foreign visitors. It is a small amount considering VIHA has a $1.4 billion budget.


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