Strategy another step away from universal coverage, says HSAA president Elisabeth Ballermann
Edmonton (11 Dec. 2008) - Alberta has taken another step back from universal health care coverage with plans to implement a new pharmaceutical strategy for seniors in the province.
As of January 2010, the Stelmach government will eliminate its universal Alberta Blue Cross benefit for the province’s elderly and replace it with a new income-based system that opens the door to “private, for-profit health insurance companies,” says Elisabeth Ballermann, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE).
The announcement was made by Alberta Health and Wellness Minister Ron Liepert.
“Mr. Liepert is taking Albertans further down the path to a two-tier health care system that will see private health care insurance providers expand their market,” Ballermann says.
“Whenever there’s a dollar to be made, you can be sure you’ll see for-profit health care insurance providers swoop down into the market to fill the void created by the government.”
'Should be wary'
While the new system provides a no-cost prescription service for low-income seniors, those who continue to earn more than the government-set rates (single seniors who earn more than $21,000 per year; couples who earn more than $42,000 per year) will now be expected to pay the full cost of their pharmaceuticals up to a ceiling rate based on their annual income.
“All Albertans, and not just seniors, should be extremely wary of this government’s continued departure from public health care,” warns Ballermann.
“There are tangible consequences when you create a plan that goes against the concept of universality. Once you divide based on wealth, you’re creating a two-tier health system. By encouraging these kinds of divisions between different social strata, you’re moving further and further away from universal health care coverage and deeper into the wallets of Albertans.”
HSAA is a union that represents more than 17,000 professional, technical, support and ambulance workers in Alberta’s health care system. NUPGE