Submitted by Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan
Today the United Nurses of Alberta (“Union”) held a protest at my MLA constituency office.
Protests should be honest; without disingenuous distortions of facts, or attacks on persons instead of policies where genuine differences of opinion may exist.
In the recent salary arbitration, the Union asked for a 3% increase. The independent arbitrator stated “no change in wage rates is justified … particularly given the prevailing general economic conditions in the Province.”
The arbitrator was right. Out of Government, Alberta businesses and families must limit spending to their incomes; in Government, public sector salaries should respect taxpayers and not impose structural billion-dollar debts and deficits upon our children. That is in the public interest.
In the recent ‘MacKinnon Report’ and supporting documents (collectively, “Report”), there is a comparison of registered nurse compensation to other provinces. Alberta nurse compensation is significantly higher than the Report’s comparator provinces: BC, Ontario and Quebec. The Report is available to all Albertans for viewing at:www.alberta.ca/mackinnon-report-on-finances.aspx
The Report also identifies that Alberta nurses receive taxpayer funded benefits more generous than comparator provinces, and certainly not available in the private sector.
As an example, I received a letter from a nurse describing how some Union members may be choosing to work part time hours in order to leverage automatic double time pay once their part time, not full time, hours were exceeded, or with work falling on “designated days of rest” or “X days”. The concerned taxpayer stated ours is “a system ripe for abuse”.
The Union appears to disagree with our Government taking steps to confront outlier benefits or restrain salaries which exceed provincial counterparts.
Our Government was elected to restore fiscal accountability and sustainability in the face of structural billion-dollar Government deficits. On the strength of the Report, our focus is on reducing the cost of services, as opposed the services themselves.
We would invite all nurses, including our nurses in Central Alberta, to ensure their Union avoids taking unreasonable positions which disrespect taxpayers or undermine a sustainable health care system. That is in the public interest.
Province freezes funds for doctors and launches process to work out a new funding formula
New physician funding framework announce
Alberta will maintain physician funding at $5.4 billion, the highest level ever, and implement its final offer to the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) to avoid $2 billion in cost overruns.
Existing terms will remain in place until March 31, 2020. A new funding framework will then be introduced, in a multi-year process that will require consultation with the AMA at all stages. The new framework will make changes proposed during negotiations to prevent cost overruns, align benefit programs and administrative fees with those of comparable provinces, and improve services for patients.
The eleven consultation proposals will also be implemented on March 31. This includes phasing in changes to complex modifiers, reducing the rate physicians can charge for this billing code to $9 from $18, for a period of one year before the code is removed in 2021-22. In summer 2020, at the direction of the Minister of Health, the Government of Alberta will also introduce a new alternative relationship plan (ARP) with built-in transition benefits to encourage physicians to move from fee-for-service to a three-year contract.
“Our province is facing cost overruns of $2 billion in the next three years due solely to physician compensation. If left unaddressed, these costs would impede efforts to reduce surgical wait times, improve mental health and addiction services, and expand the number of continuing care beds. Despite repeated efforts, the AMA failed to put forward alternatives that would hold the line on physician compensation. The new framework announced today will prevent cost overruns, allow our province to improve services for patients, and still ensure that Alberta’s doctors are amongst the highest paid physicians in all of Canada.”
- The new funding framework will maintain government’s current level of spending on physicians at $5.4 billion.
- The new funding framework avoids anticipated cost overruns of $2 billion over the next three years.
- Alberta has been spending more on physician salaries than other provinces, yet most of its health outcomes are below national averages.
- A doctor in Alberta earns approximately $90,000 more than a doctor in Ontario and physicians’ fees have almost tripled since 2002.
Elements of the new funding framework
- Changes to Alberta’s complex modifier billing system. The rate physicians are able to charge for complex modifiers will be reduced to $9 from $18 for a period of one year before this billing code is removed in 2021-22. Once the new framework is fully phased in, physicians will be able to bill an additional fee after spending 25 minutes with a complex patient case. Alberta remains the only province in Canada that allows for a top-up payment for complex visits.
- Removal of the comprehensive annual care plan from the list of insured services. Currently, physicians can also bill for a similar consultation called a comprehensive annual visit. No other province in Canada compensates physicians twice for annual care consultation.
- Implementation of a new daily cap, modelled after a cap in place in British Columbia, of 65 patients per day. Large patient loads can contribute to physician burnout and may compromise patient safety and quality of care.
- Removing physician overhead subsidies from all hospital-based services. Physicians who work in AHS facilities should not be billing for overhead costs that their community physician colleagues face, such as leases, hiring staff and purchasing equipment.
- Ending of clinical payments, or stipends, by AHS to physicians. This change ends duplication of payments to contracted physicians.
- In September 2019, government provided notice to the AMA that it intended to begin negotiations on the AMA Agreement. The notification provided time for the AMA to prepare its proposals.
- In November 2019, negotiations began with the AMA to reach a new agreement; government began consultations on 11 proposed changes to the schedule of medical benefits (SOMB, or “insured services”).
- In January 2020, negotiations and consultations proceeded with no agreement reached. Mediation, on both the negotiation and consultation proposals, began January 31 and continued into February.
- The parties were not able to reach an agreement during mediation.
- Government will implement its final offer from the negotiating table, including the 11 consultation proposals, on March 31.
Here’s your chance to help improve Alberta’s auto insurance system
From the Province of Alberta
Auto insurance reform seeks public input
Albertans can help identify improvements to Alberta’s automobile insurance system through an online survey available until March 6.
A government review launched in fall 2019, seeks to address pressing issues such as escalating costs and to develop solutions that will ensure affordable, accessible and sustainable auto insurance options for the long term. A three-member advisory committee is leading the review.
As part of the review, the committee is conducting a survey, and seeking input from Albertans, service providers and other stakeholders through online or written submissions.
“As we review Alberta’s automobile insurance system, we are asking Albertans, service providers and other relevant stakeholders to be part of the potential solution. A thorough understanding of consumer and industry needs will help ensure our recommendations to the government are realistic and reflective of the marketplace as a whole.”
Advisory committee mandate
The committee is tasked with exploring options to reform Alberta’s automobile insurance system and making recommendations to government. The committee’s work is guided by the following principles:
- Fair, accessible and affordable automobile insurance for Albertans.
- Timely and appropriate outcomes when claims are made.
- A private-sector delivery model for automobile insurance.
- A viable and sustainable automobile insurance system.
- The overall engagement process, including the public survey, was developed by the advisory committee.
- The survey will be open until March 6 at alberta.ca.
- The committee will deliver its recommendations to government in June 2020.
- Industry data shows Albertans pay the third-highest rates for auto insurance in Canada, behind B.C. and Ontario.
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