Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Freddie's Diary - Article 18 by Rose Bradley 

The latest in a series of articles taken from Freddie's Diary.

Kelly Cryderman, Dec, 200l, EJ

Members of a group of Edmonton seniors say they remember what it was like when Canadians had to pay for their own basic medical care, and they don't want to go back to a similar system. The Seniors' Action and Liaison Team has written a health care brief, described by Brian Staples as "almost the exact opposite of the Mazankowski report" being compiled by Premier Ralph Klein's advisory council on health. "We remember families financially ruined by catastrophic illness," the brief says. "We remember people who died because they couldn't afford treatment and were not prepared to accept it as charity."

Former Conservative deputy Prime Minister Don Mazankowski was appointed in early 2000 to lead the 12-person Premier's Advisory Council on Health. A draft copy of the council's report discussed such changes as allowing for more private medicine and making Albertans pay for procedures now covered by health insurance.

SALT, a social justice group of about 45 people, maintains that a largely public system is far cheaper than a private system. The group suggests the federal government should introduce a new health care business tax and encourage bulk buying of drugs.


Shawn Ohler, March, 2002, EJ

Next week's provincial budget will hike health care premiums by nearly 30%, according to a confidential Alberta Health document obtained by 'the Journal.'

The premium hike--to $44 form $34 a month for single Albertans and to $88 from $68 monthly for families--will pump an extra $200 million into government coffers, the document says. After the 29.4% increase, premium revenue will jump to $869 million annually in 2002 - 03 from about $670 million now, it says. Alberta Health's premium subsidy program will also be bolstered, because the rate hike would otherwise "negatively impact lower income non-senior Albertans," says the memo, signed by assistant deputy minister Janet Skinner.

Though it appears subsidy program changes had yet to be rubber stamped when the March 7 memo was drafted, the memo suggests that about 200,000 non senior Albertans--60, 000 more then currently qualify--will be eligible for full or partial premium subsidies as of April 1. Under the revamped program, the government will swallow $179 million in sacrificed premium revenue, $80 million more than it does now.

About 153,000 Alberta seniors will receive full or partial subsidies under the new plan, but nearly 90,000 would have to pay the increased premium, the memo says. This would occur despite a 1996 cabinet decree that premiums "would not be increased for seniors in the future, regardless of any other increases that would apply to the public."

Under the Premium Subsidy, premiums are reduced or eliminated based on an applicant's preceding year's tax information. Under the Waiver of Premiums program, premiums are waived for up to six months for Albertans experiencing short-term financial difficulties. Eligibility is based on the gross monthly income for three calendar months preceding the application. Alberta seniors receive premium subsidies under a different program, the memo says.. The nearly 30% premium hike will almost perfectly split previous estimates given by Premier Ralph Klein, who mused Albertans could expect increases of 20 to 40%.

It is considerably less, however, than the 50 % rise that was also considered by government. According to confidential documents prepared by Alberta Health bureaucrats for Minister Gary Mar and obtained in January by 'the Journal', the government considered raising premiums by a whopping 50% over two years. Those documents also proposed chopping nearly 50 million in insured medical services and seniors' and widows' benefits, though there's virtually no chance those items will be dealt with in the budget.

Mar has said no final decisions have been made regarding program cuts. He is still mulling which members to appoint to an expert advisory panel that will be charged with considering which services to delist from Alberta's health insurance plan. The formation of that panel as well as a recommendation to increase premiums, were major items on Don Mazankowski's Premier's Advisory Council on Heath report.

The changes are consistent with the government's drive to squeeze more money from patients and reform the health-care system in the fact of what it considers unsustainable cost increases. Mazankowski and Alberta Health officials have repeatedly maintained that more revenue is needed to offset spiraling health spending, which they have said could 'take up half of all program spending by 2008.

Seniors paying for 2 people (a couple) are paying $1096 per year for Health Care premiums. Does anyone know what is still covered for that large expenditure? If anyone knows please send me an e-mail at gtery@freenet.edmonton.ab.ca so I can tell everybody who reads Freddie's Diary. I suspect that our coverage diminishes constantly without our knowledge.

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