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Alberta downturn means many have lost their benefits

Tough times in Alberta mean loss of benefits for many
WATCH ABOVE: Numbers released by Stats Canada show more than 77,000 Albertans continue to collect employment insurance. For many, losing their job means losing their benefits. As provincial affairs reporter Tom Vernon tells us, it's leading to some tough decisions.

Numbers released by Stats Canada show more than 77,000 Albertans continue to collect employment insurance. For many, the loss of their job has also meant a loss of employer-provided benefits.

“We are getting an increase in calls,” said Sharmin Hislop, the manager of corporate communications with Alberta Blue Cross.

“It’s one of those times when people are trying to find ways to keep their coverage, but meet their financial reality.”

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Alberta Blue Cross provides more than 1.6 million Albertans with benefits coverage, whether it’s through employer or personal plans, as well as government-sponsored plans. With the downturn in the economy, the organization has seen an increase in the number of people seeking personal coverage, and companies looking for ways to manage their costs.

“For some, it’s a choice between paying salaries or providing benefits, which is tough,” Hislop added.

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READ MORE: Alberta’s unemployment rate hits levels not seen since 1990s

This shift has led to many making tough decisions when it comes to their personal health.

“There’s a mood change, patients are just a little big more cautious,” said Dr. Mintoo Basahti, the president-elect of the Alberta Dental Association.

“Some of the elective work, some of the stuff that can wait without compromising their health, they’re leaving that off.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s been awesome’: Alberta man laid off amid economic downturn

Basahti wasn’t able to provide specific numbers, but acknowledged dental offices located in areas particularly hard hit by layoffs are noticing a downturn. He suggests patients who have lost their benefits should still keep in contact with their dentist.

“Go in and talk to them, say, ‘what’s my dental situation like? What can wait? What is emergent work?”