health spending

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Since 1998, health-care spending in Alberta has increased by 317 per cent—faster than in any other province.

9:00AM
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The new Alberta government has delayed introducing a budget until the fall, so MLAs will have plenty of time to think about how they’ll collect and spend Albertans’ money.

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The 2004 federal-provincial health accord recently completed its 10-year run, and expired on schedule. Though heralded at the time of its signing as a landmark agreement that would solve many of the wait times issues plaguing Canada’s healthcare system, in retrospect it achieved very little and was very expensive to boot.


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Many Canadians and commentators in other countries lauding Canada’s government-dominated approach to health care refer to Canadian health care as ‘free.’ If healthcare actually was free, the relatively poor performance of the health care system might not seem all that bad. But the reality is that the Canadian health care system is not free – in fact, Canadian families pay heavily for healthcare through the tax system.


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Get ready for Medicare’s annual summer slowdown, where the forecast calls for possibly poorer than usual service levels.

Every year, provincial health care systems across Canada dutifully reduce the volume of services they provide in preparation for the summer vacation season. This planned-for reduction has the inevitable effect of lengthening waiting times for Canadians over the summer months (and during Christmas holidays). The added twist this year is the slowdowns might be extended in a bid to reduce expenditures.


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For many Canadians, the Victoria Day long weekend marks the beginning of summertime holiday planning, if not a late May escape after a long winter. For those who travel outside of the country in the coming months, we have a modest proposal: find a pub, sit down with locals and ask about their nation’s health care system.


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With the deadline for filing income tax returns now passed, some Canadians may still be in shock at the size of their tax bills while others no doubt find solace in the belief that their taxes help pay for a high quality universal access health care system.


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Having spent itself into a considerable deficit problem, the Alberta government seems to be considering a sales tax as part of its plan to dig provincial finances out of the red (or at least they’re trying to start a ‘discussion’ to that end). The alternative, we’re led to believe, is fewer and lower-quality public services due to obligatory spending cuts. A closer look at the facts suggests that’s not the only option available.

Instead, they could choose a win-win scenario that improves health care while reducing waste and inefficiency.


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The idea that some Albertans might be getting their publicly-funded health care more rapidly than others because of who they happen to be, or who they know, or indeed if they have greater ability to pay, seems to have generated a fair amount of rage. Yet many of those who decry such queue jumping by elites and the politically connected are supporters of the current public monopoly in health care insurance and hospital care delivery, and it is this very structure and the rationing by waiting it entails that is to blame for the situation.