To the Editor:
Nova Scotia’s doctors work hard to care for their patients, provide them with appropriate advice and advocate on their behalf.
In 2005, the federal government expanded the disability tax credit. This non-refundable tax credit helps disabled people (or those who support them) reduce the amount of income tax they may have to pay. As a result of the expansion, individuals may now backfile for up to 10 years. While this has been very welcome for many Canadians, the expansion has resulted in several unintended consequences that are of concern to Doctors Nova Scotia.
Chief among these has been the proliferation of third-party companies aggressively marketing to Canadians with the message that disabled people may be eligible for tens of thousands of dollars in tax refunds — and that all it takes is to have their physician complete the disability tax form. However, these for-profit companies don’t have the complete health profile of the patients they are dealing with, and they are not positioned to suggest medical diagnoses. In addition, these third-party companies often take a percentage of any refund in return for their services.
The challenge is that these companies often create great expectations of financial windfall for individuals, but in some cases, physicians are not able to confirm the patient’s disability to the degree needed to qualify for the tax benefit. This then strains the physician-patient relationship. If a physician determines they cannot ethically support a determination of disability, these companies will implore the patient to ask the doctor to change the diagnosis to support a claim.
Nova Scotia’s physicians will always provide the best medical care, support and advice for their patients. They will always try to do what is best for their patients’ health and wellbeing. Physicians are regulated by authorities such as the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and they are bound by their code of ethics. Physicians cannot — and should not — be pressured to make diagnoses on the basis of aggressive marketing tactics used by companies that want to make a profit from patients.
If you believe you have a disability that would entitle you to claim the disability tax credit, speak to your family physician. Trust that your physician will, as they always do, treat you with your best interest at heart. You don’t need to be seduced by the self-interested marketing of for-profit businesses.
Dr. Tim Holland, MD, CCFP (EM)
Doctors Nova Scotia