EDMONTON—Minister Liepert’s latest approach to a pharmacare plan for seniors has shifted the whole model to a means tested insurance system that will not help the majority of seniors.
“The Minister seems to be listening more to the insurance industry than he is to the concerns of Alberta’s seniors,” says Noel Somerville, Chairperson of Public Interest Alberta’s Senior’s Task Force, a coalition of 15 organizations. “The expensive insurance rates being proposed as the model will leave most seniors wondering if they should buy into this new plan. This will just expand the market for the insurance industry.”
The new plan divides seniors up into five categories based on their annual income. In that plan the government has significantly lowered the bar for low-income seniors to be eligible for free medication. People earning less than $21,325 were going to be able to get their medications for no cost.“
The previous plan was very flawed, but at least it did not require thousands of seniors with incomes between $12,000 – 21,325 per year to pay $15 for each medication,” says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “The whole plan will only save $20 million so Alberta can certainly afford to pay a few million for these low-income seniors who have need of medications. You really have to wonder why they would change this basic support for our most vulnerable seniors."
Middle and higher income seniors have to pay increasing insurance costs based on their annual income rather than at a fixed rate like most group programs.
"Since most seniors are relatively healthy, it is questionable if they will think it is worth spending this amount of money on an insurance scheme that certainly looks expensive,” wonders Noel Somerville. “My wife and I, for example, would have to pay $1416 in premiums under this plan, but we currently only spend around $1000. So now, we are put into a situation where we must decided if we will gamble and go without the plan.”
“The Minister heard from thousands of seniors that his first plan was flawed, I am sure once seniors understand the details, he is going to continue to hear from Albertans, that this second attempt is not much better,” concludes Somerville. “We would love it if he would just take a few months and actually hold public consultation with seniors and all the baby boomers about what Albertans think is really needed in a real pharmacare plan.”