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Aon Consulting Canada Inc. won a $1.5-million contract on Nov. 3, 2005, to provide Alberta with a plan to lay out options for transferring parts of the publicly insured health care system to private insurers. The plan looks at putting publicly insured services like drug coverage, hip replacements or long-term care under private insurance schemes.

If any of the of the private health insurance plans actually happen, the insurance industry will have new channels to sell insurance products to Albertans. However, in a recent Ekos poll, a majority of Albertans said they don’t want more private health care insurance.

Since the announcement of the contract, there has been a lot of coverage of the fraud and anti-competitive allegations against Aon Consulting’s parent, Aon Corp., in the United States. Aon Corp. paid out US$190 million to settle the allegations out of court. An Ontario regulator charged Aon Canada with overstating a subsidiary’s assets.

To add fuel to the fire, a subsidiary of Aon Canada, Aon Reed Stenhouse, was involved in an out of court settlement over disputed money and accounting differences with the Alberta School Boards Association.

These are important issues, but they detract from the basic fact that a provincial government that tends towards privatization hired a private insurance-related company to explore privatization moves against publicly insured health services.

Instead of a request for proposals from the Ralph Klein government, rooted in a wide variety of evidence-based options, the Conservatives have instructed consultants to make plans that reflect its ideological goals. Taxpayers’ money is going towards a project that they don’t want and that won’t reflect the range of options available. It amounts to privatization for privatization’s sake.

Underlying the controversies around Aon Canada is a leaked document from the government of Alberta that deals with private services and insurance. The Alberta Liberals leaked the document, called Removing Barriers to Private Funding and Private Delivery of Health Care Services in Alberta. It states that removing insurance barriers, “opens (the) market for private health insurance” and “Alberta’s private health insurance prohibition for medically necessary services may interfere with access.”

The document goes on to recommend that doctors and dentists should be able to work in the private and public insurance systems – a practice known as double dipping, illegal in several provinces – and many other options to introduce private insurance.