Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2002
Health-care report draws cool response
Privatization is on critics' minds
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Don Mazankowski's health-care report is getting mixed reviews from Catholic activists. While some are concerned it pushes forward the privatization agenda, others see it as an opportunity for education and dialogue on reform.
The report, which Premier Ralph Klein commissioned to recommend health reforms, says Albertans should pay higher health care premiums, carry debit-style cards to track medical costs and increase access to more private services.
"I think this (report) is another step toward privatization and anything that moves the health care system towards privatization is something that I fear," said Colin MacIsaac, president of SPIRITUS, a Catholic grassroots organization that advocates and mobilizes on issues that impact faith and life.
"I think a move toward privatization of any kind is going to be detrimental to serving the health needs of Albertans."
MacIsaac questioned the idea implicit in the report that private health care providers can provide better health care services when they are in it for the money. "It seems to me it costs more to provide health care in a private system because private corporations are there to make money and have to meet shareholders' expectations," he said.
John Lynch of the Social Justice Commission has problems primarily with the "haste" with which Klein has tried to push through acceptance of the report's recommendations by Jan. 23. He also blasted the premier for his "reluctance" to extend the debate of such an important issue.
"What I question is the idea that it would be cheaper to contract out to private medical providers the kinds of things that can be done in our public facilities," he said.
"A private for-profit health care provider either has to make money by not paying staff the going rate or some other way because they have stockholders who expect a payback for their money."
Lynch also has problems with Mazankowski's suggestion that the province sell public hospitals to private corporations.
"I don't like it at all. The thing is these buildings were built with tax money and they would be sold at the rate that the government sells to private sector - always a giveaway. So there is a loss of money there you can count on."
Lynch also blasted the debit card idea saying, "it appears to penalize the people who are the sickest" while benefitting the insurance companies.
Both SPIRITUS and the Social Justice Commission are studying the report in depth before launching a public campaign on it. "We have to build public reaction to this," Lynch said.
Claire Mills, executive director of the Catholic Health Association of Alberta, is concerned that higher health premiums "will be too heavy a burden for the average regular person." She also expressed concern about the move toward privatization, saying Albertans have to be attentive and get involved in the debate.
Patty Nixon of Alberta Pro-Life said the report, regardless of its merits, provides an opportunity for pro-life organizations to raise the issue of tax-funded abortion. "This is an educational opportunity. It allows us to raise the issue of tax-funded abortion."
Albertans currently pay for over 10,000 abortions every year, with a third of these being by women who have reported one or more previous abortions.
Nixon said one of Alberta Pro-Life's efforts will include educating the public "on the fact abortion is not health care but a choice and should no longer be funded with health care dollars."
"If the Klein government is going to adopt the recommendations of the Mazankowski report then they must revisit the blank cheque style of funding of abortion services."