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But he cautions that government must tread carefully when it comes to private health insurance, noting companies may not want to insure Albertans with chronic diseases such as arthritis. "The private insurance industry needs to be regulated extremely carefully," he said. And a Calgary physician who runs a private MRI clinic believes many patients aren't ready to buy surgery. "The Canadian population is not ready and hasn't been conditioned to pay those sums (for surgery)," said Dr. Benjamin Wong, medical director of Canada Diagnostic Centres, who said he supports Alberta's plan nonetheless. Wong notes the number of Albertans willing to pay for MRIs, for example, has stabilized, despite the province's wealth. Others, like Dr. Howard Gimbel, who operates the private Gimbel Eye Centre in Calgary, believe there are many patients willing to pay for surgery. He said his clinic has the capacity to perform significantly more surgeries if patients were allowed to pay for operations. mlang@theherald.canwest.com

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