Alberta Premier Danielle Smith muses about paying for out-of-province surgeries – Edmonton Journal

Premier Danielle Smith said Saturday she is considering expanding Alberta’s compensation program for those who pay for their own surgeries outside of the province.

Smith made the remarks Saturday on her call-in radio show in response to a text message from someone claiming to be dealing with a hip issue, and deciding to spend $20,000 to undergo an operation out of province.

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“It only seems fair that I’d be reimbursed what it would cost them had I had the surgery done in Alberta.”

The texter claimed his or her operation was not covered by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) which provides coverage for insured physician and hospital services elsewhere in Canada.

Smith immediately warmed to the idea, saying the texter was “dead right.”

“If we are not treating people here within a medically reasonable period of time, then we have to be able to support them getting their care elsewhere,” she said.

“By having a bit of a penalty (we’re) saying, ‘If we don’t do it here, we’re going to pay to have it done elsewhere.’”

Smith added she would have to “work that through” with the UCP caucus.

She said she ran on the idea in 2012 and claimed she would have committed to it in the weeks ahead of the May 29 election, but that her campaign became sidetracked due to dealing with the severe wildfire situation at the time.

“I want to solve the problem here first. I want to make sure that we have a system that’s that has the maximum number of surgeries done every single week so that nobody finds themselves in that position.”

She claimed the province is on track still to be able to eliminate the backlog of patients waiting for care longer than medically recommended by March of next year.

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AHCIP provides coverage for some procedures that take place elsewhere in Canada, but the government’s website warns that “coverage may be limited” for elective surgeries outside of the province.

The program covers costs for medically necessary services, as determined by a patient’s physician.

Those also include psychiatrist visits, medically required diagnostic services, oral surgeries and some bariatric surgeries, as well as hospital visits and stays.

AHCIP does not cover non-medically required surgery and health services provided by a provider other than a physician, among other restrictions.

The program also does not cover expenses incurred related to health care outside of Alberta including food, travel, and accommodation.

In a statement, Opposition New Democrat health critic Luanne Metz described the idea as “yet another attempt by (Smith) to undercut public healthcare.”

“The Premier — the entire UCP Government, for that matter — should be focused on ending the crisis in public healthcare and delivering the surgeries that Albertans need right here.”

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