Friday, May 15, 2009

Bill 48 - Liepert's Next Nail In Health Care's Coffin

I'm going to have to disagree with Mr. Chapman's analysis of Bill 48.

It's not that I don't think that he has made some interesting points. Far from it, in fact. Superficially, Bill 48 goes after big tobacco, criminals, the auto insurance industry etc. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? After all, why shouldn't, for example, a criminal be held responsible for any health care costs incurred as a result of criminal activity, or a tobacco company for selling a product known to be harmful?

But step back from this for a moment, and consider the implications, and in particular how this can - and will - trickle down to the individual taxpayers in Alberta.

For example, consider the case of a criminal who either injures someone - or is injured - in the commission of a crime. Does anybody really believe that these people have a bag of money set aside to pay the medical costs related to whatever damage their activities cause? They do not, and are unlikely to ever repay those costs.

As for automobile insurance paying for injuries sustained in a collision, we already know how that is going to work. If you have an accident that results in a claim today, you can fully expect your insurance rates to go up enough that the insurance company will recoup whatever it paid out on your behalf over the next two to three years. Make no mistake about it, if the insurance carriers think they are going to be stuck with any medical treatment costs related to that accident, they will increase premiums at the outset, and the rate spike related to an accident will make what we see today look absolutely trivial.

Which brings me to the real issue that I have with this bill. It takes Health Care into the world of being a "cost recovery model", where the costs are immediately downloaded to whatever third party is deemed "liable" for those costs. Ultimately, it will result in either no useful recovery (as in the case of criminal liability), or the costs will be passed onto consumers in Alberta quite directly through increased insurance premiums. As a taxpayer, I'm already paying into the health care pot to begin with, and in many ways, this will result in me paying not once, but twice.

The second issue I have to raise as an objection to this legislation is the "what were you doing" exception made for criminals:

34 If a person convicted of an offence provided for in the
regulations, under legislation specified in the regulations, receives
health services for personal injuries suffered in the commission of
that offence, the Crown has the right to recover from the convicted
person the Crown’s costs of health services.

At first, this seems innocent enough. If you are a criminal, and you get hurt in the commission of a crime, you pay the freight for your health care. On further consideration though, this starts to sound like the myriad of exclusionary clauses that are seen in the US health care system so often - The so-called "Pre-existing condition" clauses that insurance companies use regularly to weasel out of actually paying for health care that someone needs. What Liepert has done here is signal that he intends to make access to health care in general conditional. Upon what, remains to be seen.

Liepert has already shown Albertans that he isn't willing to be up front with us when it comes to his agenda for health care. On April 7, he started unveiling his plans for attacking Albertan's health care by delisting Gender Reassignment Surgery on budget day - again using the tactic of an easy political target to put a veil over what he really has planned. Albertans have no reason to trust recent denials from the Stelmach government about what they will or will not be targeting.

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