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Health Minister calls allegations of cuts to seniors benefits inaccurate
Nicole Weisberg, CTV Edmonton
Published Friday, January 17, 2014 11:53AM MST
Last Updated Friday, January 17, 2014 1:13PM MST
Health Minister Fred Horne issued a statement Friday morning stating that allegations the government is cutting seniors benefits are inaccurate and misleading.
The statement comes after a number of seniors staked out the Health Minister’s constituency office Thursday, until the early morning hours, demanding a meeting about proposed changes to the provincial seniors’ drug plan.
The changes, announced last year, would consolidate a number of drug and supplementary benefits programs into one income-based program.
“Care should be available on the basis of need, not ability to pay,” said Noel Somerville with Public Interest Alberta.
“It's an insurance scheme, and it's a way for pharmacy to make more money on the backs of seniors,” said David Eggen, NDP health critic.
In Horne's statement he responded, “The purpose of the plan is to provide access to approximately 20 percent of Albertans who have no drug of benefit coverage and to ensure our province can continue to provide the broadest possible range of drugs and other supplemental benefits to Albertans today, and for generations to come."
The plan was set to take effect January 1, 2014 but was deferred after a number of concerned stakeholders spoke out.
“This will allow the opportunity for further consultation and discussion and ensure any proposed changes consider the perspectives of all who have an interest in ensuring we can continue to provide the benefits valued so highly to our growing population,” said Horne. “To suggest that any changes are imminent or that there is a hidden plan to move ahead with implementation of changes is simply not accurate.”
Over the phone, Horne agreed to meet with the seniors next month however the group is also demanding Alberta Premier Alison Redford attend the meeting.
A spokesperson with the Premier's office responded in a statement.
“The Minister has already committed to a meeting with Public Interest Alberta representatives and I know Minister Horne will ensure the Premier is aware of that meeting’s outcome,” said Neala Barton, Press Secretary with the Office of the Premier.
The seniors remained at Horne’s constituency office until about 12:30 a.m. when staff called police.
With files from Bill Fortier