@ $4,800 per Albertan, Medicare isn’t free. Could become unsustainable, says Health Minister Sarah Hoffman

In 2036 — a mere two decades from now! — Alberta could be spending 60% of its budget on Medicare, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman cautioned delegates in a keynote address February 8, 2016, to a forum on “Physicians as Stewards of Resources.” Today it’s “a significant portion of the [Alberta] government’s overall budget” at 45%; 60% “is simply not sustainable or right.” http://www.health.alberta.ca/documents/Speech-2016-02-08-Hoffman-CAD.pdf

In other words, what’s left for other important government services such as social housing, low-income support, seniors’ programs, education, universities and colleges, culture and the arts, roads and bridges, and the environment.

“For the past 20 years, spending on health care in Alberta has been going up by an annual average of nearly 6% – well beyond inflation and population growth,” Hoffman said. This “has landed Alberta at the top of the scale in Canada in almost every category of health spending. The Canadian average health spending is about $3,400 per person. In Alberta, it’s more than $4,800.”

[It should be noted, however, the Federal Government’s transfers to the provinces for health care have increased 6% annually for the past 10 years. Therefore, the Alberta government and all other provincial governments are not as out-of-pocket as they might claim.]

Alberta “is not always getting the best health outcomes for our health dollars,” Hoffman said. “In some areas, our health care system performs well compared to other provinces. In some areas, we’re particularly weak. And in many areas, we’re in the middle of the pack. Given how much money is spent on health care in Alberta, the health outcomes in our province can and should be better.”

In her campaign to “bend the cost curve,” Hoffman is targeting hospital acute-care, prescription drugs and physician compensation.

N.B.: “Physician compensation” can be misleading because fee-for-service and other types of payments to physicians include an overhead component to pay the salaries of thousands of staff that physicians employ and for office overhead costs such as rent, maintenance, medical equipment and computerization.

Nevertheless, Hoffman is convinced “most of us would agree that the model our province uses to pay doctors is expensive, outdated, and doesn’t support the efforts of doctors to provide the best care possible.” So: “We need to start with clear evidence. Everything we do needs to be based on the best available data, analytics and information.”






Canada’s government-run health care system – Medicare -- is a monopoly that prohibits private hospital and private physician care. Medicare is a subpar performer, ranking 10th among 11 advanced countries. Canadians deserve much better! Patients deserve timely access to quality care and choice of hospitals and physicians. Taxpayers deserve much more value for their tax dollars.

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