Saturday, April 22, 2006

Alberta's next healthcare battles

Premier Klein did an excellent job of unifying opposition to creeping healthcare privatization. painting a nice big poorly defined target called the Third Way, refusing to provide specifics and suggesting changes that experts agreed would have increased both wait times and costs. The Third Way died with Klein's political career, overwhelmingly opposed by Albertans and even the Conservative federal government.

The Alberta healthcare flash-points to come: healthcare premiums and de-listing or never listing new treatments in the first place.

The Alberta healthcare premiums which make up only 3% of government revenues are opposed across the political spectrum, with some of the strongest opposition coming from the right. The premiums do not go towards health costs, they go into general revenues, they would make up only 10% of real healthcare costs. Instead of another rebate give-away the government could instead remove the entirely political premium costs still being charged to working Albertans while corporate Alberta gets over $400 million in tax cuts. Of course eliminating the premiums would undercut the government's 'sky is falling' rhetoric on healthcare costs so...

As to delisting or never-listing, The Mazankowski Report, much cited by King Ralph called for massive de-listing. Purely by coincidence Mazankowki was at the time of the report a board member of the Great-West Life insurance company, which would directly profit from de-listing or failing to list new treatments in the first place. The Senate's Kirby report was also fatally compromised by conflict of interest. Kirby made his de-listing and pro-privatization recommendations while sitting on the board (plus three board committees) of private nursing home giant Extendicare, as well the board of Miza Pharmaceuticals. Drugs and home care are, as it happens two of the most costly profit-making private sector burdens on public health care budgets. Delisting and never-listing is about corporate profit more than it is about public savings, the evidence shows that many de-listing schemes are false economies that actually increase costs.

A solid anti-privatization and pro public healthcare consensus has been created, or more accurately revealed, more by Premier Klein's over-reaching on behalf of his friends in the private insurance industry than anything else. The challenge for groups like Friends of Medicare and the opposition parties is to keep this consensus intact and turn it to the continuing challenge of protecting and expanding the public system. Public healthcare remains the most efficient and most ethical method for providing healthcare.

It's time for those who support public healthcare to go on the offensive and the targets should be the lie of out of control health costs, the entirely political and regressive Healthcare premiums tax and the ongoing efforts by government on behalf of the private insurance lobby to de-list existing medical treatments or to never list new ones in the first place. If Albertans mobilized against healthcare premiums the way they did against the Third Way, they'd be gone tomorrow.

Next post: Preston Manning or Jim Dinning? Either way public healthcare is in trouble.


Joshua Kubinec said...

That was very inspiring. I would have honestly stood up and started clapping if I heard you say that behind a podium!

Cliff said...

Wow, thanks. I actually had been thinking it was a little wordy and factoid shotgun blast.

Appreciate the kind words.

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