2015 Picard Lecture ~ Ethical Issues in Physician Billing under Fee-For-Service Plans ~ Professor Joseph Heath, University of Toronto

Ethical Issues in Physician Billing under Fee-For-Service Plans

Medical ethics has become an important and recognized component of physician training. There is one area, however, in which medical students receive very little guidance. At most universities, the medical school curriculum contains no discussion of the financial side of medical practice at all. Specifically, students are given no guidance when it comes to thinking about how their professional obligations as doctors should govern their behaviour when charging for their services. My objective in this paper is to initiate a discussion about the moral dimension of physician billing practices. What I would like to suggest is that physicians should expand their conception of professional responsibility, in order to recognize that their moral obligations toward patients include a commitment to honest and forthright billing practices. I will argue that, as individuals, physicians should aspire to a standard of clinical accuracy – not legal adequacy – in describing their activities. More generally, physicians should think of themselves as exercising stewardship over health care resources. As a group, they should strive to promote an integrity-based culture, first and foremost by stigmatizing rather than celebrating creative billing practices, as well as condemning the misguided sense of solidarity that currently makes it taboo for physicians to criticize each other on this score. Beyond this, I will end with a set of modest proposals for institutional reform, all aimed at reinforcing an integrity-based approach to billing.

March 31, 2015
12:00- 1:00 p.m
McLennan Ross Hall (Rm 231/237), Law Centre (111 - 89 Ave)
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB

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Joseph Heath is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto. He has worked extensively in the field of critical theory, philosophy and economics, practical rationality, distributive justice, and business ethics. His papers have been published in academic journals such as Mind, Philosophy and Public Affairs, and the Canadian Journal of Philosophy. He spent time as a regular columnist writing for the Montreal Gazette and Policy Options magazine, and still contributes theoccasional piece to the Literary Review of Canada and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of several books, including the most recent, Morality, Competition and the Firm (Oxford, 2014), which is a collection of papers on business ethics and the normative foundations of market economies. He is also a fellow the Trudeau Foundation.