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Harper wise to watch and wait as Klein crosses Rubicon of health care (The Province)

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The Province 2006.03.02 Final Editorial A16 Don Martin Don Martin CanWest News Service 401

The first premier to call Stephen Harper after the election was Ralph Klein. Worry not, a chatty Klein told the incoming prime minister, you'll have no problem with Alberta's health−care reforms −− we are, after all, one big happy Conservative family now. That Ralph. Such a tease. On the second−last line of his government's 10−point, mostly motherhood policy direction, Klein handed his federal brother a world of medicare pain, namely in No. 9: Paying for choice and access while protecting the public system. A policy giving Albertans the right to buy hip and joint replacements privately has precedent. If you've got a tragically bad hip now, fly to Montreal with $12,000 in your suitcase, head for the Duval Orthopedic Clinic and you'll be right as rain in a couple weeks. But giving physicians and surgeons permission to moonlight for cash after spending part of their time in public service? Well, that's new and had Harper sounding slightly queasy yesterday. Klein had confided to cabinet ministers he'd wade no further into privatized care than Quebec's intrusions. He must've missed reading the fine print of Quebec's plan, because it permits no such two−tiered two−step by its doctors. Quebec dances close to the line in spots, the classic example being Sheldon Elman, former prime minister Paul Martin's personal physician, who sees patients in the public system while operating a lucrative fee−for−service executive health service on the side. But allowing doctors and surgeons to cross what has been the Rubicon of health care −− public paycheque one day, private the next −− has unleashed another of those screeching condemnations that immediately follow all Alberta health−care plans. The Globe and Mail went particularly hysterical, blasting Klein as the father of MasterCard medicare. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

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