In the last five years more than 7,700 BC Doctors billed the BC Medical Services Plan using a code that described homosexuality as a mental disorder.
The BC Government released the information late Friday. The government said the billings were most likely due to misidentified accounting procedures, and is confident no doctor was billing for treating homosexuality as a mental illness.
In 2003/04 173 people patients were the subject of these billings. In all Doctors billed 1,794 times using the mental disorder code. The cost was $67,359.
This story broke last week when codes for treating homosexuality were found on the BC Government website. The next day the goverment removed the codes and was checking to see if any billings had been processed by the BC Medical Services Plan.
You can see the page with the codes that classified Homosexuality as a mental disorder here. What is disturbing is why these codes were not removed earlier and how they got back into the billing system, if in fact they had been removed at one point at all.
A five year check is not adequate. The Government needs to investigate this back to when treating homosexuality as a mental disorder was changed by the medical community.
The following is from today's Vancouver Sun.
A backup text copy of the Vancouver Sun article is stored here.
Michelle Stewart, a spokeswoman for the Health Ministry, said the code was part of a World Health Organization-recognized list used by health ministries when paying doctors for services.
It was supplanted years ago with a new one that dropped homosexuality as a disorder.
However, for reasons the province doesn't understand, the old list remained on the books and some doctors continued to use it when filing for payment.
Stewart said there is no evidence any doctor was treating homosexuality as a mental disorder.
"It wasn't being used as a class for treating homosexuality as a disorder, but rather you were treating a patient with a problem," she said.
"The codes that would be more appropriate to it would be for counselling, depression and anxiety."
She said patients do see their doctors when they are in conflict about their sexuality, and it is reasonable to expect physicians to bill for those services.
More than 20 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association officially delisted homosexuality as a mental disorder.
The existence of the code became public this week and angered the gay and lesbian community, which said it was an offensive reference to days when homosexuals were considered mentally disordered.
The health ministry has advised doctors they can no longer use the code, and a reference to it has been removed from the government's website.
Nonetheless, there appears to have been enough doctors' offices aware of the code in recent years to demonstrate it wasn't an isolated incident.
The health ministry went back and dug out the claims for the past five years, although they say billings have gone on for many years. Here's what they found:
- In 2002-2003 there were 1,545 billings for treatment of 146 patients for a total of $52,849.
- 2001-2002: 1,594 billings for 244 patients. Total: $42,419.
- 2000-2001: 1,725 billings for 224 patients. Total: $42,288.
- 1999-2000: 1,182 billings for 274 patients. Total: $31,721.
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MULTIPLE DOCTOR VISITS
Between 1999 and 2004, doctors billed the government a total of $237,000 for treatments in the long-discarded diagnostic code for homosexuality.
Billings per year
Avg. # treatments/patient
2003-04: 1,794 10.4
2002-03: 1,545 10.6
2001-02: 1,594 6.5
2000-01: 1,725 7.7
1999-2000: 1,182 4.3