Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Would You Like Fries With That?

Albertans will be allowed to buy ''enhanced'' surgeries like high-tech hip operations under provincial medicare reforms announced yesterday -- a plan critics said creates a new tier of health care for the wealthy.

Premier Ralph Klein and Health Minister Iris Evans unveiled their much-touted third way reforms, including changes allowing patients to pay for extras such as first-class hospital rooms or the so-called Birmingham hip procedure.

Mr. Klein said the plan, which comes into effect this fall, likely doesn't violate the Canada Health Act since all medically necessary surgeries, such as traditional hip replacements, would remain publicly funded.

''This will be controversial,'' conceded the premier, at a press conference in Calgary.

''I don't know if it violates the Canada Health Act, but I don't think it will.''

Far from being a bold root-and-branch reform of the current health care system or even the first step towards the "two-tier" bogeyman, this reform is actually quite mild.

It would do nothing, in itself, to shorten waiting lists for crucial procedures or relieve the financial strain on the publicly-funded system. It would simply allow people to top up their public health care with a few extras paid for by private insurance.

It's the health care equivalent of supersizing your fries and Coke at McDonald's.

Source: National Post

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