Following our January 16th sit-in at Minister Horne’s constituency office, a meeting was arranged for February 13th.A group of 13 representatives of the Public Interest Alberta's Seniors Task Force reviewed our Pharmaceutical Position Paper and proposed a universal pharmaceutical plan, fully integrated into our provincial health care system, as an alternative to the income-based plan proposed in the government’s last budget. We contended that income is a proper basis for determining taxation, not medication. We further pointed out that the $180 million saving to government projected in the last budget would result in a huge transfer of costs onto people because they are sick and have a high need for prescription drugs.
While the Minister agreed that a universal, National Pharmaceutical Strategy, as proposed by the First Ministers in 2004, was the ideal solution, he contended that it was not attainable without federal support, which was not forthcoming. In response, we pointed out that the Canada Health Act did not start as a federal initiative; it started from the vision displayed in the province of Saskatchewan. Further, it was pointed out that considerable savings can be realized when a single-payer health care system becomes a single-purchaser of prescription drugs, and that Alberta is benefitting from recent changes in federal transfer payments.
Minister Horne did, however, assure us that no change would occur to the current Seniors Drug Plan without further consultation, probably this summer, and that there would be no reference to such change in the 2014/15 provincial budget.
From a presentation at the meeting by Department of Health staff, it appears that some re-thinking is occurring of the government’s ill-considered position in the last budget.
We will continue to monitor this situation and advised the Minister that we also intend to pursue the matter further with the Premier.
Read the Edmonton Journal's coverage of the meeting here.