Group concerned government will reduce health benefits

Angry seniors occupied Health Minister Fred Horne’s constituency office until midnight on January 18 to protest provincial plans to merge Alberta’s 18 subsidized drug plans into one. The seniors along with supporters from Public Interest Alberta and Friends of Medicare held the sit-in to demand meetings with Horne and Premier Alison Redford to discuss proposed changes to their health benefits. Horne will meet with the groups on February 13 though Redford’s office has refused to schedule a meeting. Redford has been out of Alberta attending international trade missions.

The groups “felt it important that they meet with Alison Redford because she had solicited their support when she was running for leader of the PC party and had explicitly stated that she would not touch the seniors’ drug plans to many of those organizations” explains Public Interest Alberta director Bill Moore-Kilgannon.

The groups remain at odds with the government after Horne made a statement on January 17 calling their allegations “inaccurate.”

“In Budget 2013 the Government of Alberta signalled it would move to consolidate the 18 current drug and supplementary benefit programs to a single plan. The purpose of this initiative is not to cut benefits or costs as has been suggested. Our goals are clear: to provide access to the approximately 20 per cent of Albertans who currently have no drug or benefit coverage” Horne said. “To suggest that any changes are imminent or that there is a hidden plan to move ahead with implementation of changes is simply not accurate.”

Public Interest Alberta fired back with its own release calling Horne’s statement “a series of vague and disingenuous claims.” It points to government claims that consolidating drug programs would save the government $118 million annually. The advocacy groups question how the government can save that much money without cutting benefits.

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