UCP members support private health care at party’s AGM

The governing United Conservative Party has passed a resolution supporting the option of a privately funded and managed health-care system for Alberta.

The decision was made during voting Oct. 17 by UCP members on policies submitted during the party’s virtual annual general meeting. Critics of private health care have long maintained that such a move would jeopardize the existing public health-care system.

But in a statement Oct. 19 from premier Jason Kenney’s office, he was quoted as saying the UCP “in member-approved policy and in our platform that we campaigned on made an unqualified commitment to publicly funded, universally accessible Medicare … that is not in the U.S. system, the U.S. does not have a universal publicly funded healthcare insurance. Alberta does. Alberta will always have that.”

The statement was based on a transcript of an interview given to local media. The policy resolution was approved by slightly less than 53 percent of the 793 people who voted at the AGM.

Kenney said what he heard from the members who voted on the resolution was that “there should be more choices and options. Alberta has the least choices and options in how health care is delivered.”

A rationale submitted during the AGM explained the reasoning behind the policy resolution.

“Not only have physicians been upset that there is no more money in the public purse, the government is fiscally unable to spend more toward their billing fees,” it said.

“Physicians should be allowed to accept/take on more responsibility of supplying care to patients on a private fee for service that each feels will allow their practices to remain solvent and grow in scope (hybrid system).”

The policy would set up a “private tier system” that would allow private hospital facilities, similar to non-hospital surgical facilities that already exist, it said. Patients would pay a user tax, or fee for service, “shifting some burden from the public tax revenue to private payments,” said the rationale.

“This could help the economy recover more efficiently by creating choices, both for physicians and patients, in time and public costs to the public health system. The economic benefit to government and the society is a health budget that will not grow excessively for public provincial health care that in itself delays accessibility.”

Kenney said it would not result in American privatized health care.

“It’s about universal publicly insured Medicare delivered in different ways,” he said.

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