They are the highest paid doctors in B.C.
Even though the province moved to cut ophthalmologists’ rates back in 2013, it looks like the top billing eye doctors brought in even more money last year than they did before the cuts.
CKNW has learned, that’s because those rate cuts did not impact the top billers.
Rates target only one sub-specialty
Of B.C.’s top twenty billing doctors, eighteen are ophthalmologists.
Each of them brought in between $1.7-million and $3.4-million during the 2015 fiscal year.
Of those eighteen, seventeen actually billed more than they did in back in 2012, which was before the province cut rates.
The reason is, those rate cuts only targeted ophthalmologists that perform cataract surgeries.
The rate dropped 21% from $533 to $420 per procedure, and has remained at that level.
In contrast, the top billing ophthalmologists are all retinal surgeons.
B.C.’s highest billing physician last year was ophthalmologist Dharminder Singh Dhanda, bringing in $3.4-million.
In 2012, he billed $2.5-million.
Dhanda works at a practice called Retina Surgical Associates along with the three other top billing ophthalmologists, Leah Wittenberg, Hugh Parsons and Simon Lam.
The practice has five locations, and together, they billed the province $11.9-million dollars.
Three other ophthalmologists in the top ten also work together at another practice, the Vancouver-based West Coast Retina Consultants.
Together, David Albiani, Andrew Merkur and Andrew Kirk billed the province $7.2-million.
The issue of whether fees need to change to keep up with changing technology is something on the province’s radar.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health says is setting up a working group over the next year, as part of its agreement with Doctors of BC.
That working group will be tasked with addressing a number of issues, including discussing changes to billing to reflect changes in “the knowledge, skills, time and technology required to deliver services.”
It’s an issue that’s of particular relevance to ophthalmologists.
Within that field, cataract surgeons have seen rates cut while retinal surgeons haven’t.
Both sub-specialities have seen technological advancements that allow surgeons to do more procedures than they were able to before – meaning they can also bill more.
With files from Simon Little