Alberta NDP’s first budget commits to 50+-year-old model that isn’t sustainable

In his October 27 budget speech Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci had the opportunity to be as courageous and bold as former American president Richard Nixon when he broke the mould by going to China and forever changed the international equilibrium.

Instead, the minister committed Alberta to a 50+-year-old model for health care – a Medicare monopoly that prohibits patient choice and one that is financially not sustainable.

According to Mr. Ceci: “…we will continue to build a universal, public health care system that is one of this country’s rights of citizenship, and one of this country’s great contributions to the world.”

Medicare is “one of this country’s great contributions to the world”? So, aside from North Korea, why has no other country adopted the Canadian monopoly of Medicare for their hospital and physician services? As Seth Meyers and Amy Pohler used to say as the anchors on the Saturday Night Live [SNL] newscast: “Really?” “Really!” “Really?” “Really!”

Mr. Ceci characterized cuts to Medicare proposed by the former Progressive Conservative government as “a formula for chaos and the layoff of thousands of health care workers.”

He then stated: “In this budget, we are restoring health funding. So we won’t have chaos in our health care system. And we won’t be losing thousands of front-line health care providers.”

No chaos in the health care system is a Herculean commitment by the new government. From a patient’s perspective, that conjures up Medicare fulfilling its promise for timely access to necessary care, not languishing 10 hours in the emergency room, and not waiting more than a year for some surgeries.

But, what if the chaos continues? Middle-class Albertans currently have no made-in Alberta and no made-in Canada option. Canadians should not have to travel to the United States or other countries when Medicare fails them. They deserve options at home, north of the 49th

Government has an obligation to deliver on the promises of Medicare, as determined by the Supreme Court of Canada [Chaoulli decision 2005], and reports from the Kirby committee [Final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology 2002], the Canadian Medical Association and others.

As for financial sustainability, every decade Medicare has eaten more and more of the provincial budget, thus leaving less money for other important government services such housing, seniors programs, low-income support and education.

In the 1980s, 30 years ago, Medicare consumed 30 cents of every Alberta taxpayer dollar. Today it is 50 cents. Look ahead another 30 years and, if nothing changes, Medicare will consume 70 cents. “Really?” “Really!”

It was said that only President Nixon, as a Republican, could have gone to China. Perhaps only a courageous and bold NDP government can bring Medicare into the 21st century.

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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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