In a move that will no doubt endear him to Canadians and Albertans alike, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is preparing to “contravene the interpretation of the principles of the Canada Health Act” in an effort to “save” health care in the province. I’d be expecting a letter from Intergovernmental Affairs in the near future…
EDMONTON (CP) – Alberta Premier Ralph Klein issued a warning Thursday that his Tory government is prepared to break the Canada Health Act in order to save public health care.
Klein said the province may look at such things as charging facility fees and delisting medical procedures or charging a deductible on doctor visits to address spiralling health costs. He said Alberta is prepared to face the consequences – including the forfeiture of federal health-care funding – in order to ensure the health system remains sustainable.
“What we do may contravene the interpretation of the principles of the Canada Health Act and we ought to be ready for a firestorm,” Klein said.
“I think we’re ready to assess the savings that might be achieved against the amount that will be lost.”
Alberta Health officials said the province would stand to lose the $1.3 billion the federal government annually contributes to its $7.35 billion health care budget.
The last time the Klein government and Ottawa got into a dispute over the province charging facility fees to patients in 1995-96, it cost Alberta $3.4 million in penalties.
“We would have to test the dispute resolution mechanism that has been put in place,” the premier said.
Klein said Alberta will only violate the Canada Health Act as a last resort, but he said that if he can’t convince his fellow premiers and the federal government that radical reforms are needed, the province will go it alone.