Health care premiums are now on the table

The Yukon government should consider charging people for health care. And rates should be increased for Yukoners living in continuing-care…

The Yukon government should consider charging people for health care.

And rates should be increased for Yukoners living in continuing-care facilities.

These are just two recommendations in a new 260-page Yukon Health Care Review commissioned by the territorial government.

“There are 43 recommendations and by no means do we intend to implement all of the recommendations,” said Premier Dennis Fentie, addressing a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

The Yukon has the third-highest health-care expenditures in the country.

And health-care costs are increasing in the territory, he said.

That is why the report was commissioned.

“This process is about the sustainability of our heath-care system and making the business case with Ottawa for the continuance of the Territorial Health Access Fund,” said Fentie.

The fund allows the territorial government to deliver sustainable health care to Yukoners.

And in 2010, it will run out.

The territory will apply for another five-year funding term, and it hopes the health-care review will ensure it gets it.

If not, the territory will have to rely on the Canada Health Transfer that delivers funding on a per capita basis.

“This may work for provinces, but it will never meet the needs of Yukoners, to ensure we have equal access to health care,” said Fentie.

“Just because we live north of the 60th parallel, we shouldn’t be penalized.”

The new report also recommends charging for out-of-territory medical travel.

“It’s an item of discussion,” said Fentie. “But we do bear the cost today.”

It also recommends the government transfer control of the Watson Lake Cottage Hospital to the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

But this recommendation does not affect the ongoing construction of the $30-million Watson Lake hospital, said Fentie.

It doesn’t matter that construction and health-care planning are occurring simultaneously, he said.

“The government’s on the right track.”

All the recommendations will be discussed this winter during public consultations, said Health Minister Glenn Hart.

“A general information handout will be sent to all Yukoners so we can get feedback from as many people as possible,” he said.

The review will also be available online.

“To suggest today we are going to implement health-care premiums is entirely patently false,” added Fentie.

“We are going to go out and have a discussion with Yukoners and then from there we will implement measures that will deliver on sustainability of health care in this territory.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com