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Building Alberta: Health a priority in Budget 2013

Spending smarter, protecting primary health care, and safeguarding Albertans most in need are the priorities for the 2013-14 Health budget.

The Health budget is $17.1 billion in 2013-14, an increase of almost $500 million or three per cent. This is substantially lower than the health spending growth rate of nine per cent annually over the last 10 years. The Health budget will rise to 45 per cent of Government of Alberta operational spending in 2013-14.

“While most areas of government are seeing their budgets frozen or reduced, we are increasing our budget by half a billion dollars, reflecting the fact that health care is a top priority for Albertans and for the Redford Government,” said Fred Horne, Minister of Health. “Yet this budget also reflects our intent to do things differently - to spend smarter, to achieve better health outcomes for Albertans and to deliver better value to taxpayers. I am confident we can improve our health system while ensuring its sustainability at the same time.”

Alberta Health Services (AHS) will receive $10.5 billion in base operating funding for front-line health services, a $307 million or three per cent increase, plus $393 million for operating costs of new health facilities. Government believes AHS can use its health care resources more effectively while improving Albertans’ access to the health services they need.

Government’s priority to improve access to primary health care will be achieved through a $262 million investment in Primary Care Networks, Family Care Clinics, and addiction and mental health services. These funds, in addition to other ongoing primary health care investments, will help to ensure all Albertans have access to primary health care when they need it, where they need it, and from the most appropriate service providers.

Protecting those most in need, the very young, and senior citizens will be the focus of a number of new initiatives.

To ensure comprehensive drug and supplementary health benefit coverage for all Albertans, a PharmaCare program will be implemented on January 1, 2014. Currently 20 per cent of Albertans have no drug coverage of any kind.

Diabetes care will be enhanced through a new Insulin Pump Therapy program starting in late spring for Albertans with Type 1 diabetes. Albertans who meet eligibility criteria will be provided 100 per cent coverage for insulin pumps and basic supplies, less any amounts covered through government-sponsored and patients’ private insurance programs.

The health of young Albertans will be improved through an early childhood development investment of $8 million, which will include a new Universal Newborn Hearing Screening program, reducing rates of low birth weight infants, improving maternal mental health and improving breastfeeding rates.

A new Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program will be implemented for all eligible seniors who own homes, including those most in need, so they can keep more money in their pockets by deferring taxes until they sell their homes. Income testing for the current Seniors School Property Tax Assistance program will take place in 2013 to ensure seniors most in need will continue receiving assistance before the program ends in 2014. With the establishment of the Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program, the Seniors School Property Tax Assistance Program will be eliminated.

Other Health budget highlights include: all Albertans benefiting from lower generic drug prices, as a result of reduced generic drug prices from 35 per cent to 18 per cent of brand name prices; eligibility requirements and income exemptions for the Alberta Seniors Benefit program being better aligned with similar federal government programs; and the Health Facilities Review Committee being eliminated because many of its functions overlap with other standards, audit and review bodies, and legislation in place.

Other Health operating spending in 2013-14 will include:

  • $3.4 billion for physician compensation and development programs for physicians’ payments as well as programs that support the addition of more physicians to the system.
  • $1.1 billion for drugs and supplemental health benefits for Albertans such as assistance for prescription drugs, ambulance services, cancer therapy drugs and specialized high cost drugs.
  • $927 million for other health services, including those provided by oral surgeons, optometrists and podiatrists, as well as home care and rehabilitation, vaccination programs, tissue and blood services and health services in correctional facilities. This includes $86 million for Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions, coming to Health from Enterprise and Advanced Education to better integrate leading-edge health research with health service delivery.  
  • $358 million for the Alberta Seniors Benefit program.

Budget 2013 continues to invest in health infrastructure over the next three years, including $230 million for the continuing care capital program, $100 million for 1,000 supportive living units across Alberta, and $80 million for the new cancer centre in Calgary. It also includes $878 million over three years for continued construction of hospitals in Edson, Grande Prairie, High Prairie, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

Our government was elected to keep building Alberta, to live within its means and to fight to open new markets for Alberta’s resources. We will continue to deliver the responsible change Albertans voted for.

Media inquiries may be directed to:
Bart Johnson
Press Secretary
Minister of Health
780-427-3665
780-446-9190 (cell)
bart.johnson@gov.ab.ca

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.