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The report of the Advisory Council on Health Care in Alberta, chaired by former Tory minister Don Mazankowski, claims to respect the principles of the Canada Health Act. Instead it sets out a plan to ’reform’ Canada’s health care system by ensuring ever more public funding is funneled into private pockets. Mazankowski’s vision is to eliminate any effective government role from health care, save a funding role.

Who is Mazankowski?

Don Mazankowski was federal minister of privatization in the Mulroney cabinet. Mazankowski is also a director of several private insurance corporations including health giant Great-West Lifeco Inc. The insurance industry stands to benefit directly from many of the council’s proposed ’reforms.’ Mazankowski is also a director of a corporation with close Chrt0069en connections, the Power Corporation. Power Corp. controls Great-West Lifeco, as well as Investors Group and London Life. As well, he’s a member of the International Advisory Board of GPC International one of the world’s leading corporate lobby firms, with a special interest in medical and pharmaceutical companies.

Inside the Mazankowski report

Many of the ’reforms’ the report advocates are aimed at shifting the costs of health care to individuals or opening up opportunities for for-profit providers and private insurers. The report is filled with ’business-speak’, talking about ’putting the customer first,’ ’diversifying the revenue stream’ and ’encouraging competition’. It reinforces the mantra of the pro-privatization forces, that our health care system is not sustainable.

The Advisory Council stops short of making recommendations that contravene the Canada Health Act. However, they do lay the groundwork to legitimize measures that will contravene the Canada Health Act. Cleverly, they place the blame on Canadians themselves.

” it is highly likely that pressures will mount to look for new options outside the limitations of the Canada Health Act. That may not be our preference, but we also acknowledge that Albertans and Canadians will not accept continued rationing of health services, long waiting times, and denied access to new treatments and technology available elsewhere.”

The most prominently mentioned vehicle for implementing reform is the widely discredited Medical Savings Account (MSA). MSAs are inefficient and shift major financial burdens onto individuals. The Advisory Council outlines ten areas of reform. In each area they make recommendations that would lead to privatization of health care, including:
  • “Guarantees” of care that will be used to force private providers into the system when unreasonable time limits in an under-funded public system cannot be met.
  • A redefinition of comprehensiveness that will restrict what health services are publicly funded, and what new services or treatments will be covered. This creates a public system that by definition cannot expand to meet growing needs. It can only make choices between treatments, services or drugs. The inevitable result will be de-listing or refusals to cover new therapies, treatments and services.
  • Allowing competition and choice in the system. The Council claims that as long as services are publicly funded there is no reason to question where the services are delivered. The Council recommends that physicians should be able to work in both the public and private systems.
  • ’Diversification’ of health revenue streams meaning individuals will have to pay out of their own pockets, and to private providers. Increased premiums add an additional burden to individuals and families.
  • The promotion of public private partnerships in health research and the increased commercialization of products developed through health research initiatives. Public private partnerships (P3s) in health research will suffer from the same shortcomings as all P3s. The private sector will reap the profits while the public sector accepts the risk and pays the long-term costs of development.
The Romanow Commission, which exhaustively studied the question of for-profit health care, rejected most of these ideas because they will do nothing to improve access to care while raising serious concerns about increased costs and increased health risks.