Mazankowski report prescribes health care changes

Alberta health report released

The first shot in the battle over health care in Canada was fired in Alberta on Tuesday with the release of a new report that recommends sweeping changes to the province's health care system.

The report of the Premier's Advisory Council on Health recommends strong medicine for the province's health care system, including an expanded role for private funding in the system. INDEPTH: Alberta Health Care Report

"Unless we are prepared to change how we fund and how we deliver health care services, the health care system in Alberta is not sustainable," said panel chair Don Mazankowski.

The 12-member panel led by the former deputy prime minister was formed in the spring of 2000 to find ways to reduce the cost of the health care system.

Among its 44 recommendations, the report says the government needs to form an expert panel that would decide which medical procedures should be covered under medicare. That process, said Mazankowski, would be to redefine "comprehensiveness."

"This report will lot be left to gather dust on the shelf. As a matter of fact we will start working today on consideration of the recommendations," said Klein.

"The greatest harm we could inflict on the health care system today would be to do nothing."

That commission, headed up by former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, is expected to make its final report in the fall.

Federal Health Minister Allan Rock has asked the provinces not to make changes to their health care policies before then.

Alberta plans to respond to Mazankowki's report on Jan. 23. The following day Klein attends a premiers' meeting in Vancouver that will focus on health care.

Klein has long said he is willing to challenge the interpretation of the Canada Health Act, and his government has pushed the envelope before.

Alberta spends more than $6 billion a year on health care, about one-third of its total budget.

"In health care, costs and demands have grown until they've threatened the very future of the public health system," said Alberta Health Minister Gary Mar.

The panel says the government should continue to pay most of the health care bill, but says private insurance companies and patients themselves should contribute.

Mazankowski has been accused of a conflict of interest, since he is a member of the board of Great-West Lifeco Inc., which owns an insurance company.

The province is also spending $1 million on an ad campaign explaining to Albertans why the coming changes are necessary.