A war of words is breaking out between the province’s doctors and Health Minister John Haggie on the issue of flu shots.

For the past two days, Haggie has been defending a plan to stop MCP payments for doctors who administer flu shots. Haggie said family doctors bill an extra $17 for a flu shot on top of what they charge for a regular checkup.

“I think it would illustrate things better: if you have a patient with a belly ache, they go to their family doctor,” Haggie said during Question Period. “The family doctor bills the taxpayers $31. If they’re offered a flu shot at the same time, the family doctor extra bills the taxpayer $17 for a service that can be provided down the corridor, free of charge, no extra charge to the system. That is the logic behind the change.”

But the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association says that statement is factually incorrect.

“A family physician is reimbursed by MCP for $32.20 for providing a regular office visit to a patient,” the NLMA said in a statement. “If the patient requests a flu shot as part of that routine office visit, the physician does not bill MCP for administering the flu shot. The physician bills only the $32.20 for the office visit. Flu shots as part of regular office visits are provided with no extra billing as stated by the Minister of Health.

“Family doctors bill MCP $17.16 when a patient books an appointment for the sole purpose of obtaining the flu shot. In these cases, other medical issues are not addressed and a regular office visit is not required. Therefore, physicians bill only for the flu shot and not for routine office visit.”