Friday, January 02, 2009

Putting an end to putting a premium on Healthcare

As of yesterday Albertans are no longer paying healthcare premiums.

The tax never went to healthcare going instead into general revenues to pay for tax cuts for oil companies and expensed three martini lunches for cabinet members. It never 'paid for healthcare' representing about 10% of actual healthcare costs.

It was a deeply regressive tax, you paid the same no matter your income - except you didn't, because the higher your income the more likely that your employer made paying it part of your benefits, like many of the ivory tower conservatives pompously bloviating about how the premiums helped people realize that healthcare came with a cost.

In fact it likely increased costs. Many low income Albertans defaulted on the premiums - sometimes rent and food takes precedence - and then avoided getting the medical care they needed in the mistaken fear that it would be refused because they hadn't been paying their premiums. In fact healthcare cannot be refused to anyone for not paying healthcare premiums, but I personally know Albertans who let medical conditions fester sometimes leading to emergency room visits and acute care that ended up being a lot more expensive than timely preventative care would have been.

And the fear will continue, the government indicates they plan to continue trying to collect unpaid premiums. We know that Alberta's oil companies adroitly avoided paying billions owed even under the industry giveaway royalty plan in place for the last several years - will the Alberta government be spending the time and money dunning them the way they will continue harassing low income Albertans?

Hollow laugh.

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