Amendments to the Medicare Protection Act were recently introduced in the B.C. legislature to support the introduction of a more secure card, designed to improve patient safety and reduce fraud.
The new card, which would replace the current Care Card, will offer more security benefits than a current driver’s licence, including a photograph of the beneficiary, anti-forgery features, high-level identity proofing – as well as a security chip. People can choose to have the new card, or to have their driver’s licence indicate they are enrolled in the Medical Services Plan.
The current plastic BC CareCard was introduced in 1989 with no significant changes over the last 20 years. Proof of identity is critical in assisting doctors and other health-care providers determine the most appropriate treatment for patients and ensuring the right care is delivered to the right person.
In addition, there is concern across government and other sectors about the potential for misuse and fraud, especially as the BC CareCard is considered an acceptable form of government-issued identity. Today, there are about 9.1 million BC CareCards in circulation for a population of about 4.5 million people.
Unlike the current approach, the new card will require re-enrolment on a regular basis that will help to ensure that only those entitled to valuable publicly funded health-care services receive them. Enrolment and re-enrolment are required to maintain beneficiary status for health-care benefits.
When patients access care in hospitals or the community, they are asked to produce a valid BC CareCard. People who fail to re-enrol will not be eligible for publicly paid health services hospital services, as they will no longer be beneficiaries of the Medical Services Plan.They could also lose subsidized coverage for services such as ambulance service and Fair PharmaCare. However, individuals will never be denied essential medical care in real emergency situations even if they fail to re-enrol or do not have a card. Re-enrolment will be straightforward and, where possible, aligned with the date for renewal of an individual’s driver’s licence.
No person under the age of 19 will be asked to re-enrol. Certain groups of adults, such as the elderly or marginalized populations – for whom re-enrolling would be impractical or present a hardship – will also be exempted or managed through special arrangements.
Drivers will be able to re-enrol when they renew their driver’s licence.
Obligations to renew enrolment will be set every five years at the same time driver’s licences expire. Non-drivers will have a similar cycle.
This will allow for a phased-in approach. When a person successfully re-enrols, they will be issued a new secure card.
Once the legislative amendments are passed, government will develop regulations to support the new enrolment process and launch of the card.
Full implementation of the new card is expected to be phased in over five years beginning before the end of 2012.