Private health care – not sustainability – is the goal

Ron Liepert’s goal is to slash the amount of money the Alberta government annually puts into health care. Minister Liepert claims health expenditures are escalating “out of control” and are increasing at an unsustainable rate. This “lack of sustainability” is exacerbated by the politically motivated and fiscally irresponsible elimination of Alberta Health Care premiums.

Ron Liepert’s goal is to slash the amount of money the Alberta government annually puts into health care. Minister Liepert claims health expenditures are escalating “out of control” and are increasing at an unsustainable rate. This “lack of sustainability” is exacerbated by the politically motivated and fiscally irresponsible elimination of Alberta Health Care premiums.

Liepert says Albertans should believe his rhetoric rather than trusting the actual numbers. The actual numbers indicate the cost of health care has been increasing at approximately the same rate as the increase in the provincial domestic product and therefore is absolutely sustainable.

The way Liepert plans to reduce the government health care budget is to privatize large parts of the system. Recruiting and appointing Stephen Duckett, the champion of privatization from Australia, as CEO of the new superboard is proof of Liepert’s intent despite his protestations.

Privatizing large parts of health care in Alberta will accomplish Liepert’s goal of reducing government expenditures on health; however it will not reduce the cost of health care in Alberta. Costs will increase at a rate far exceeding the rate Liepert claims is occurring today.

The reason for this cost increase is simple. Privatized health care costs more than our current system because of the profit component. Health insurance companies are not altruistic. They are in the system to make money for their shareholders.

They accomplish this in three ways. First, they charge far more for health coverage than is currently being charged by Alberta Blue Cross and the now “free” Alberta Health Care plan. The cost of private health insurance in the USA is a good example.

Second, an individual who wishes to purchase private health insurance generally is refused coverage if the insurance company thinks there is any chance the individual may actually present a claim. They only insure those who have a low probability of needing health services.

Third, there is the whole issue of pre-existing conditions. An individual will rarely get private insurance coverage for a condition they presented in the past and if they are lucky enough to get coverage it will be at an exorbitant rate.,

To free enterprise conservative ideologues Liepert will look like a hero and a winner. The losers under Liepert’s plan will be anyone in Alberta who actually needs health care.

Albertans, with private insurance, will pay far more than they are currently paying to be treated. Those who are considered uninsurable will either have to pay the total cost themselves or go untreated.

Michael J. O’Hanlon

Red Deer