Alberta Seniors Protest Cuts to Health Care

About a hundred people attended a rally put on by Public Interest Alberta on September 29th in Edmonton to protest current and proposed cuts by the Alberta Government to programs that directly affect the province’s senior citizens. Two standout issues for the rallying group are current cuts to home care and future cuts to the drug plan.

Future Cuts to Drug Plan for Seniors
The Alberta universal drug plan currently provides drugs for seniors with a maximum co-payment of $25 per prescription. Even with this maximum, the cost for medication can add up for seniors who have to take multiple medications. One rally attendant mentioned that her sister spends over $500 per month on medications, a number that could substantially rise in the future if planned changes to the system go through.

Over the course of 2015 and 2016, the Alberta government plans to phase out the drug plan for higher-earning seniors and make them pay more than the $25 maximum. For retirees who have fixed incomes, this could mean a substantial hit to their retirement savings. The Alberta government stands to save $180 million in the short term with this cut, a cost that is being directly downloaded to seniors.

Current Cuts to Home Care in Calgary and Edmonton
Alberta Health Services reduced its number of Edmonton and Calgary home care agencies from 72 to 13 in spring of 2013 in a bid to save money and standardize services. Opponents of the move argue that smaller community-run agencies are being pushed out in favour of larger for-profit companies, a move that could significantly reduce quality of care for seniors reliant on home care services.

Carol Anne Kunicki, a rally participant, stated: “On July 3rd, Mom was so devastated by the loss of her long-term care aide that my stoic, strong mom cried herself to sleep. Why, in her precious twilight years, is my mom or anyone’s mom faced with this imposed, unnecessary lunacy?”

The cuts to home care are even more perplexing when you review the Alberta Health Services 2011-2015 Plan, which calls for expanded home care, and aims to get seniors out of hospitals faster by providing proper home care for them.

If you’re interested in learning more about government policy issues that affect seniors in Alberta and what you can to do advocate for seniors, visit Public Interest Alberta’s website for senior issues.