Improving Medicare and Finding Savings in Budget 2018

Improving Medicare and Finding Savings in Budget 2018

Public sector solutions needed to improve the system and expand access

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Friends of Medicare were able to attend a Government of Alberta consultation session leading into Budget 2018.

Medicare as we know it still needs expansion. While we are proud of the economic barriers we've removed for things like hospital care and physician visits, many areas of service remain under costly private sector delivery with growing out of pocket costs for patients.

The time is now to build on the legacy of Tommy Douglas and improve the system while removing barriers to access.

The highlights of our submission are below, and you can download the full submission here.

Our submission highlighted suggestions and areas of concern including:

Minimum Funding to Maintain the System

Alberta's economy is expected to grow in 2018, while our population should continue to increase. At a bare minimum, our health system needs to see funding grow to meet Consumer Price Index increases as well as population growth, just to maintain current levels of service. Anything less than that would be a cut to the system, forcing AHS, providers, and staff to do more with less.

Budget 2018 should meet these funding growth increases while continuing to fund important promises like building 2,000 new public long-term care beds.

Bending the Privatization Curve

Budget 2018 can realize savings by better managing heavily privatized areas of care like home care and facility based continuing care. Every patient properly placed in continuing care instead of occupying hospital beds saves the system money.

At the same time, we should be looking to public delivery of those services. Private delivery is not transparent - we do not have the ability to see the contracts AHS enters into with these providers. We also have no strings attached to the funding that prevents needed public sector dollars that should be going to front line care from going to profit margins or executive bonuses. 

We also hope to see better regulation, monitoring, and enforcement of the Canada Health Act for the expensive and exclusive fee-based private clinics in Alberta. Many of these clinics still refer or even provide insured services, and so we need to better understand and regulate the flow of public dollars to them.

Building the Future of Medicare

Alberta should be a leader in realizing the vision of advocates like Tommy Douglas for a modernized and expanded public system.

This should start with prescription drugs. If we can not secure an agreement for a national universal prescription drug plan, Alberta should show it can be done at the provincial level to provide needed medications to all, and to realize economy wide savings by eliminating the need for private drug insurance.

Finding Savings by Supporting Choice

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman is to be praised for her decision to provide universal coverage of the abortion pill Mifegymiso, as a means to secure access to reproductive care in all areas of the province.

The same principles should apply to access to fertility services and hormone replacement therapy for trans patients.

We could save the health system millions of dollars a year by reversing the decision to send fertility services in Edmonton to a private clinic and instead expand public coverage to include in-vitro-fertilization.

Trans patients could also be better served by removing unnecessary specialist referrals for hormone replacement therapy, which should also realize savings for the system through informed consent prescribing.