Alberta Budget 2009

CARP notes the Failure to Deliver on Commitment Made to Review the Pharmaceutical Redesign Strategy.

The government of Alberta has annouced the creation of a new Continuing Care Strategy but there is no indication that the funds committed are entirely new. CARP welcomes the strategy’s comprehensive approach to aging at home. A government document outlining the components of the strategy says it includes: investment in home care funding, health care system navigation assistance, assistance for transitions back to the community, emergency department support, caregiver support and enhanced respite options and dedicated health technology funding.

CARP has been on the record supporting continuing care initiatives, not only are they required but they will also drive cost savings for the healthcare system in the longrun. The government has budgeted nearly $41 million dollars to support the implementation of the strategy in 2009-10. Placing a priority on these goals is a great start but the strategy outlined is ambitious and to meet its objectives increased funding will be required in future years. To read more about the Continuing Care Strategy, click here

Continuing Care/Supportive Living Units

Another component of the Continuing Care Strategy is to increase the supply of affordable supportive living units for low-income Albertains 65+ and people with disabilities. As part the 2009-12 Capital Plan, the government will be spending a total of $150 million over the next three years to provide 1,200 new supportive living units. They have budgeted $50 million to support this goal in 2009-10.

Increase in Alberta Seniors Benefit

Older Canadians can appreciate the increased maximum monthly benefit to low-income Albertans 65+ afforded through the Alberta Seniors Benefit (ASB) program. Single persons who qualify will receive an increase of anywhere from $40 to $280 and couples will receive an increase of anywhere from $60 to $420. The qualifying income thresholds for the ASB will also increase to $24, 000 for singles (up from 22, 700 in 2008-09) and $39, 000 for couples (up from 36, 900 in 2008-09). The government estimates this will make approximately 6, 000 more people eligible.

No Follow Through on Commitment to Review the Pharmaceutical Strategy Redesign

The 2009 Budget papers seem to indicate that the Alberta government will go ahead with its new Pharmaceutical Strategy despite concerns over its impact on lower income Albertans. In December, CARP called on the Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert to reconsider the increases to drug costs for low income seniors. According to the proposed strategy, single Albertans 65+ with annual income of less than $21,325 and families with an annual combined income of less than $42,650 — will not pay for drug coverage while others will pay a deductible based on their income. People with incomes even slightly more than the lowest income cut off could pay substantially more than they do at present.

In February, Mr. Liepert said he would review the mechanics of the programs since so many there were so many complaints with respect to the $22, 000 income threshold being too low. He made this commitment to a host of seniors organizations, including members of CARP’s Alberta chapters. In a February 18th article in the Edmonton Journal, Mr. Liepert is quoted as saying