Monday, June 06, 2011

Ontario cracks down on medical weight loss programs

Here in Canada we enjoy a single-payer health care system. What that means of course is that to protect our system, our government needs to regulate what doctors are and aren't paid for. Consequently, if there were a procedure that physicians were billing for that didn't have an evidence base to back it up, the Ministry of Health is obligated to put a stop to that practice.

Well I'm happy to report that as of June 1st, 2011, Ontario's Ministry of Health has ensured that our tax dollars will no longer be used to pay for vitamin injections, urinalyses or blood tests used in the context of rapid, medically supervised weight loss programs.

According to the Ministry,

"there is no evidence that vitamin injections facilitate weight loss and there is no evidence that rapid weight loss programs are effective in the long term"
What remains to be seen is whether or not the Ministry will determine that billing for patients visits as part of a rapid weight loss program will be denied as well. There's also the possibility that they will go after those clinics' physicians' past procedural billings as the onus would have been on the physician to know that the procedures they had been regularly billing for weren't in fact based in evidence.

I wonder too whether or not the Ministry's very unequivocal statement regarding the utility of vitamin injections in weight loss might lend itself to the development of class action lawsuits against those clinics or physicians who have provided those "treatments" in the past.

While the Ministry's decisions certainly aren't representative of a formal regulation or oversight of the weight loss industry, they're definitely a positive step in the right direction.