Alberta mulls new ideas for health care funding

Finance Minister Ron Liepert says the government is looking at a way to create an 'attachment ... to the cost of health care.'
Reporters ask Finance Minister Ron Liepert about what his government is planning. 2:43

The Alberta government is mullling the possibility of bringing back something similar to health care premiums, although the finance minister says they would be different both in name and in format.

"We are not looking at reinstating the old health care premiums," Finance Minister Ron Liepert said Wednesday.

"We are looking at ways that we can meet what we've been asked to do and that is, look at ways that there can be an attachment by Albertans to the cost of healthcare and I can't be any more explicit than that, because it hasn't gone any further than that."

Alberta eliminated health care premiums on Jan. 1, 2009. The decision was first announced in the April 2008 budget, when the province was still running a surplus thanks to high resource revenues.

But the cut meant the province lost about $1 billion in revenue each year right around the time when Alberta's financial fortunes started to change.

No premiums next year, Redford says

Liepert and Treasury Board president Doug Horner recently held roundtables across the province. Liepert says participants want the government to find ways to fund the rising cost of health care.

"At the end, maybe there isn't anything we can do immediately," he said. "We feel we need to take a look at it because that's what Albertans consistently told us when we were on the road."

While Premier Alison Redford said her government isn't planning to bring back health care premiums, she said longer-term options need to be looked at.

"Nothing is off the table, the minister of finance is right about that, but we're not going to be introducing new healthcare premiums next year," she said.

But opposition politicians are angry because they believe the government has already made up its mind.

"A new healthcare tax is not going to help our healthcare system," Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson said.

"The money is going to be pumped into general revenues and spent on whatever pet project the government feels is necessary at that time to buy some votes."