Alberta Panel Recommends Reforms for Canadian Health Care
January 21, 2002
Raising taxes to cover expensive drugs and innovative technologies is not a viable option, according to an advisory council on the Alberta health care system. And "without fundamental changes in how we pay for health services, the current health system is not sustainable." By 2008 half the province's program budget could be spent on health. Costs would eventually rise beyond taxpayers' willingness to pay, says the panel's report.
Instead, the government must decide which services should be covered by Medicare -- Canada's provincially administered, single-payer health insurance plan -- and which ones might be better left to individual decision makers.
Health care costs in Alberta are rising while waiting lists are long. Rather than further ration services to hold the line on costs, the advisory council recommends:
- Increasing the health care premiums paid by individuals to 20 percent from the current 11 percent of government-insured health services.
- Explore medical savings accounts and variable premiums to give Albertans more control over their health care spending.
- Cooperate with other provinces in strategies to restrain rising drug costs.
The advisory council says the government should increase competition in the provision of services. Policy changes Alberta has attempted in the past, such as instituting "user fees," have drawn sanctions from the federal government for violating the Canada Health Act, the federal statute that governs the health care system.
Source: "Alberta Report Proposes Radical Changes to Funding Delivery of Health Care Services," BNA's Health Care Policy Report, January 14, 2002; based on "A Framework for Reform: Report of the Premier's Advisory Council on Health," December 2001.
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