In a letter to Premier Ralph Klein, Harper hints that allowing doctors to practise in both the public and private health-care systems at the same time may violate the Canada Health Act. "Dual practice creates conflict of interest for physicians as there would be financial incentive for them to stream patients into the private portion of their practice,"...
"Furthermore, dual practice legitimizes queue-jumping as it provides an approved mechanism for patients to pay to seek treatment at the front of the line."
"Moreover, such dual practice may be a magnet for rural physicians to migrate to urban centres."
Harper sent this letter to Klein last Friday, but it was only divulged today. On the surface, it is great to see Harper stand up for the Canada Health Act in such a forceful way. Interesting that the heir apparent to Klein, Jim Dinning, is now also trumpeting the same concerns:
The early front-runner in the race to replace Premier Ralph Klein is cautioning against two of the most contentious planks in Alberta's Third Way health-care reforms.
Jim Dinning, one of at least six contenders for the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservatives, suggested that with roughly eight months remaining as premier, Klein should not proceed with a plan to allow doctors to practise in both the public and private health systems. Rural leaders have warned the move could further reduce the availability of surgeons and other specialists in their communities...
Dinning also spoke out against allowing patients to pay cash for some procedures, including joint replacements, in order to get faster treatment - a move critics say would create a two-tiered health-care system.
Now for my suspicious mind. Harper's timing here is somewhat curious, because he has been strangely silent prior to this letter. Could it be that Harper has tested the waters and calculated that he can afford to take on Klein without alientating his base? It is also interesting that Dinning raises the exact same concerns as Harper- could it be that they have had conversations? I suspect there has been some dialogue and this allowed Harper the opportunity to dive in to the debate. The issues raised in the letter have been raised by other people since Klein came out with this proposal, but Harper seemed hesitant to challenge. The letter was sent just prior to the Conservative convention, but the air of vulnerability was already present. Harper and Dinning appear to be working in concert to shelve Klein's proposal. Whatever the motives, it is good to finally see some foreful rebuttal.