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Surgical sexism in Canada: structural bias in reimbursement of surgical care for women.

BACKGROUND: It is well established that female physicians in Canada are reimbursed at lower rates than their male counterparts. To explore if a similar discrepancy exists in reimbursement for care provided to female and male patients, we addressed this question: Do Canadian provincial health insurers reimburse physicians at lower rates for surgical care provided to female patients than for similar care provided to male patients?

METHODS: Using a modified Delphi process, we generated a list of procedures performed on female patients, which we paired with equivalent procedures performed on male patients. We then collected data from provincial fee schedules for comparison.

RESULTS: In 8 out of 11 Canadian provinces and territories studied, we found that surgeons were reimbursed at significantly lower rates (28.1% [standard deviation 11.1%]) for procedures performed on female patients than for similar procedures performed on male patients.

CONCLUSION: The lower reimbursement of the surgical care of female patients than for similar care provided to male patients represents double discrimination against both female physicians and their female patients, as female providers predominate in obstetrics and gynecology. We hope our analysis will catalyze recognition and meaningful change to address this systematic inequity, which both disadvantages female physicians and threatens the quality of care for Canadian women.

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