The current state of healthcare in this province has its share of problems and the fact that it consumes $21.4 billion of our tax dollars (which is approximately 40% of our annual budget), makes it a significant issue for all politicians to address.
Premiums were eliminated by the Stelmach government back in January, 2009. Up to that point we were paying annual premiums of $528 ($44 per month) for singles and $1056 ($88 per month) for families. Our population was 3.29 million in 2006 and is 4.067 million as of 2016, an increase of 23.6%.
Based on our current healthcare budget and our current population it costs each and every Albertan $5261/year.
The GPA’s current policy statement on healthcare is that it wishes to maintain a publicly-funded system, so do I. Whether the cost of healthcare is in the form of general revenue received from our taxes or in this case a healthcare revenue partially subsidized by healthcare premiums. These premiums being waived for low-income families and seniors.
Why I favour the monthly charge is it more directly relates the costs to us citizens. This will allow us to know and understand our role in keeping these costs manageable. The GPA also wants to include vision care, mental health care and a host of additional health services that are not included in the current universal healthcare coverage in Alberta. These additions will significantly add to the budget costs but they will also allow us to access the full spectrum of health services needed to take a proactive approach to our ongoing good health.
As individuals, we must take ownership of our health by maintaining good health rather than wait until illnesses occur to seek medical attention. This will take education for us and our healthcare professionals. We also must understand our systems so that we can utilize them appropriately. Our healthcare providers must also be part of our healthcare team so that we are not working at cross-purposes or duplicating tests and procedures. We will also need to be proactive about reducing our healthcare costs by the use of technology and programs like universal Pharmacare.
Once we implement the full spectrum of these changes, we can then review the need for charging premiums. My hope is that with these elements working together, our healthcare costs will be greatly reduced and we can all have robust, timely and effective healthcare in Alberta.