Extension means old MCP cards still acceptable

David Whalen
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HEALTH

The registration deadline for new MCP cards has come and gone.

Tuesday was the last day to re-register for MCP and the provincial Health Department says 97 per cent of the province has done so. That leaves three per cent, or roughly 15,000 people, without new cards.

Health Minister Ross Wiseman says health-care providers have been instructed to accept old MCP cards until the end of October and to advise patients of the required change. After that time, patients without new cards will be required to pay up front for medical care.

The registration deadline for new MCP cards has come and gone.

Tuesday was the last day to re-register for MCP and the provincial Health Department says 97 per cent of the province has done so. That leaves three per cent, or roughly 15,000 people, without new cards.

Health Minister Ross Wiseman says health-care providers have been instructed to accept old MCP cards until the end of October and to advise patients of the required change. After that time, patients without new cards will be required to pay up front for medical care.

"Eventually, there will be a small number who may find themselves in the very awkward position of having to go to a physician's office and the physician may ask for a direct payment before they provide service," he said.

Wiseman said these individuals will be eligible for reimbursement once they straighten out their MCP applications.

Because MCP billing is based on the services provided, Wiseman said he can't speculate on what kind of costs cardless patients could incur.

"There's no way to generalize and say 'if you have a cold, this is what it will cost you', or 'if you break your leg, this is what it will cost you'," he said.

Initially, the deadline for re-registration had been March 31, but the department extended it when 60,000 people hadn't yet applied and a quarter of the submitted applications had incomplete information or data inconsistent with the government database.

"Since that time, we've been able to reconcile many of those outstanding applications," Wiseman said.

Of the three per cent of the population without new cards, Wiseman says many have completed applications which are being assessed.

However, he added others are simply unaccounted for.

"They may be in the province, some of them may have moved out of the province, but we have no way of knowing that," Wiseman said.

This marks the first time the province has done a complete re-registration of the MCP system since 1969. Since the process began in May 2006, the government has carried out four separate media campaigns and has mailed each household in the province regarding the change.

"Hopefully, there's no one in Newfoundland and Labrador today who doesn't understand that we are, in fact, re-registering individuals for MCP," Wiseman said.

The provincial jury list is also hinging on the completion of the MCP database.

Last week, Justice Minister Tom Osborne announced the MCP database would now be drawn upon to rectify deficiencies in the jury list.

Wiseman is confident both that everyone in the province will be covered by medicare and that the Justice department will have a reliable jury list.

"We're optimistic that over time we'll get 100 per cent re-registration," he said.

dwhalen@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Health Department, Justice department

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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