Premier floats idea of introducing healthcare premiums to cover contract for doctors
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 12:37PM MST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 29, 2013 6:24PM MST
After alluding to difficult choices her government would have to make ahead of the next provincial budget, Premier Alison Redford has suggested a controversial option to cover raises for the province’s doctors.
It’s believed contract talks between the province and the Alberta Medical Association could become a little more strained – as Redford suggested health care premiums might be necessary to get a deal in place.
The province and the Alberta Medical Association has been negotiating for a new contract for two years – and the AMA hopes to have a contract in place by mid-March.
Provincial officials are also in talks with a number of other unions representing its workers.
The talks come at a time when the province has said its losing millions of dollars each day in potential revenue – due to lower than expected revenue from Alberta bitumen, which has been selling at a much lower price than American oil.
In a teleconference call with Conservative Party supporters Monday evening, Redford suggested the province might have to bring in additional premiums for healthcare to make it possible to pay doctors under a new contract.
Redford touched on the suggestion in an interview on CTV Morning Live Tuesday.
“I’m not really sure Albertans want to have a conversation where a government goes out to them, and says we want to introduce health care premiums so that we can continue to pay doctors 29 percent more than other doctors are being paid across the country,” Redford said.
“Now, Albertans may tell us differently, but for me, from our perspective as a government, we want to make sure health care services are being delivered effectively and from a cost-effective way.”
CTV News contacted the AMA for comment on this suggestion, but were told the president of the association is not going to publicly comment on the issue – but will address the status of contract negotiations in his next letter to members.
The addition of healthcare premiums would bring in an additional $1 billion.
Along with the premiums, the idea of a provincial sales tax was also raised – but Redford said all expenditures would be scrutinized before her government would consider a PST.
As for Redford’s opposition, the NDP is against the re-introduction of healthcare premiums, calling the idea a flat tax that would unfairly target low income families.
Members of the Wildrose Party said they were disappointed with Monday’s teleconference, and had hoped to see the party come up with new ideas to deal with the financial situation.
With files from Laura Tupper