воскресенье, 16 сентября 2012 г.

Life Line screening hits wall in effort to enter Canada; Rejected once, company still fighting for gov't approval for access.(Health Care)(Column) - Crain's Cleveland Business


A diagnostics company in Cleveland that offers mobile screening for potential health problems such as stroke and osteoporosis hopes to renew its efforts to expand into Canada after being denied access to the neighboring country.

Life Line Screening is trying to set up meetings with officials at Health Canada and Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to provide information about the company and to state its case as to why the screenings are beneficial, said Eric Greenberg, Life Line's vice president of marketing. Health Canada is the federal department charged with helping citizens maintain and improve their health through Canada's public health care system, which in Ontario is overseen by its Ministry of Health.

'We want them to understand who we are,'' Mr. Greenberg said. 'We have every intent of going back to Canada.''

Life Line two weeks ago planned to hold in Ontario 16 one-day clinics in which it would provide the screenings, but Canadian health officials denied Life Line access into the country, Mr. Greenberg said. According to a Sept. 30 column by writer Terence Corcoran in Canada's National Post newspaper, Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman, upon hearing of Life Line's planned clinics in Canada, urged the provincial Cabinet to pass quickly legislation barring Life Line from offering its screenings in Ontario.

Ontario's government on Sept. 23 passed a law strengthening its prohibition of two-tier health care, which it feared would have been created by Life Line's clinics because the screenings are open to those who are willing to pay for them out of their own pockets. Life Line's screenings are paid for by the patient and do not require an order from a doctor, Mr. Greenberg said.

Mr. Greenberg said Life Line was never contacted directly by Canadian officials but learned through Canadian news reports of the Canadian health system's disapproval of the screenings.

'Their thinking was that one person shouldn't be able to buy something that someone else can't afford,'' Mr. Greenberg said.

Ultrasound on wheels

Life Line owns about 60 vans equipped with ultrasound machines. The vans travel from state to state to various locations such as churches or community centers to hold one-day screening clinics, Mr. Greenberg said.

Life Line offers four screenings. One is a stroke/carotid artery screening, another looks for signs of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a third tests for peripheral arterial disease, and the last is a bone density screening to gauge a patient's risk for osteoporosis. Each screening costs $55 or less, and all four can be purchased for $149.

Paige Raymond Kovach, a spokeswoman for Health Canada, said the Canadian Health Act prohibits health services that charge an upfront fee to the patient. She said her agency is trying to determine whether Life Line's screenings fall under that law and whether its equipment is licensed to be used in Canada.

South of the border

Instead of fighting a battle with Canadian health officials, and possibly border patrol, Mr. Greenberg said Life Line instead set up its mobile clinics just across the U.S.-Canadian border in Buffalo, N.Y., and Detroit. Life Line offered free screenings in the two U.S. cities to the 700 Canadians who had signed up for the clinics in Ontario. Mr. Greenberg said a large portion of those Canadians showed up in Buffalo and Detroit for the free screenings, but he did not have a specific number.

Life Line's intention was to hold the mobile clinics in the Ontario area as a trial run to see if there was enough interest to house a permanent Life Line team in Canada, Mr. Greenberg said.

Mr. Greenberg said Life Line hopes to explain to Canadian health officials how such screenings are legal and could help save lives. He said the Canadian health care system now only tests people for signs of health problems such as vascular disease if they have experienced symptoms of the disease, and, at that point, it might be too late.

Ms. Kovach said Life Line would need to meet with Ontario's Ministry of Health because clinics are regulated by the province in which they are held. Health ministry officials didn't return two calls.