This afternoon, Gurinder Brar, MLA for Calgary North East, tabled Bill 201: the Alberta Health Care Insurance (Access Fees) Amendment Act. If passed, this legislation would ban access fees and membership-only health care, and require the Minister to enforce the Act.
“Legislation to ban access fees and membership-only medicine is something Friends of Medicare has been fighting for for a long time,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “We were pleased when MLA Brar reached out to us about tabling a Private Members Bill to resolve this issue and we are proud to support it.”
Over the summer, a Calgary clinic informed patients they would be moving to a costly membership system to access their primary care. Health Canada declared the move a violation of the Canada Health Act, and while the clinic ultimately backed down on the proposal following outcry from Albertans, no changes to legislation had yet been proposed.
“Albertans are increasingly worried about their access to their health care, and incidents such as the clinic in Calgary this summer highlight exactly why clear and enforceable legislation is so needed,” said Gallaway. “Unfortunately, we have seen no action from the government to protect patients from these sorts of access fees in the future.”
In the past, Danielle Smith has supported ideas that would require Albertans to pay for health care out of pocket, such as paying to access a family doctor or for deductibles for surgery, and has proposed concerning policies such as health spending accounts. Yet at election time, she ran on a much-touted ‘Public Health Guarantee’, and repeatedly promised that no Albertan would ever have to pay to visit a family doctor.
“Albertans need to see more than election promises and public health guarantee gimmicks, we need tangible action,” said Gallaway. “Bill 201 is a simple and straight-forward piece of legislation. Supporting and passing it into law is an opportunity for the Premier to show her public health guarantee was more than just words and to keep her election promise. We hope she will take it.”
Friends of Medicare encourages everyone in Alberta to add their voices to the call to end access fees and membership-only health care in the province.