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Third Way plan splits backers of private medicine: Doctors 'might exploit situation' (Calgary Herald)

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Calgary Herald 2006.03.02 Final News A4 Michelle Lang Calgary Herald 405

Alberta's plans to overhaul health care with an eye to privatization are sparking an expected political debate, but the proposed changes are also dividing some advocates of private medicine. While many proponents are in favour of reforms that include allowing physicians to work in both the public and private systems, others are leery. George Zeliotis −− the Montreal patient who won a landmark Supreme Court of Canada battle for the right to buy private medical insurance −− said Alberta's proposal could lead to unethical practices. "Some (doctors) might exploit the situation and use the public system to lure people to their private clinics," said Zeliotis, who fully supports Alberta's move to allow private health insurance. The debate came one day after Premier Ralph Klein's government unveiled its much anticipated health−reform framework that seeks to increase access for patients while slashing growing medical costs. Under the proposal, Albertans would be able to purchase private medical insurance or pay out of pocket for a handful of operations, including hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery. Physicians would also be allowed to straddle the public and private systems if they submit business plans that are approved by government. While private surgical clinics exist in Alberta, they currently generate their revenues from contracts with the public health system and are not allowed to charge Canadian patients. Private health−care advocates such as Dr. Brian Day are hailing the province's proposals as innovative. Day, president of the Canadian Independent Medical Clinics Association, argues that the increasing use of private clinics will create competition and force efficiencies in the health system. He points to mixed public−private European health systems as an example. "Canadians may not realize there are many other countries without waiting lists who spend less than we do," said Day. Dr. Mark Godley of the private False Creek Surgical Centre in Vancouver also applauds the Alberta proposal.

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