More private health insurance will increase business costs and undermine "Alberta Advantage"

The Alberta government's decision today to expand the role for private health insurance will result in a less equal health system and millions of dollars in new costs for individual Albertans and Alberta businesses, says the new president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, Alberta's largest union organization.

"This government likes to brag about building the Alberta advantage. But what they've done today is exactly the opposite. They are creating an Alberta disadvantage," says Gil McGowan.

"They are setting up a situation where Alberta businesses will be on the hook for millions, maybe billions, in new costs for supplemental health benefits for employees. And individual Albertans are going to pay more too - either because they will have to pay for private insurance themselves or because they will be forced to pay higher deductible and co-payments under their employer's plans."

McGowan points out that Medicare has given Canadian businesses a huge advantage over their competitors south of the border. But he says that cost advantage will be eroded by the changes announced today.

"If the government thinks these changes are not going to increase costs for business, they are dreaming in technicolour," says McGowan.

"As a labour movement, our first preference is to maintain and defend the public system so everyone has access to high quality health care regardless of their income or where they work. But make no mistake - if the government creates a gap in coverage, we will bargain to fill that gap. And it won't just be us - employers won't have a choice but to fork out for extra coverage for much of their non-union staff as well, especially managerial and professional staff. The end result will be one big price tag for Alberta business."

McGowan says he doesn't understand how Alberta business leaders can allow their allies in government to make a decision like this - one that so clearly makes no business sense.

"Obviously, these guys in government can't be left unsupervised. It's time for someone to take them out to the woodshed."

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