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Seniors’ drug plan overhaul delayed

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky has intervened again on a contentious health care move, announcing Wednesday he’s delaying an overhaul of Alberta’s seniors’ drug plan scheduled to take effect on July 1 in order to better examine and integrate the changes into the system.

The new strategy that was set to take effect July 1 included a plan for income-based premiums and drug co-payments that exempted low-in-come seniors while charging wealthier retirees more.

Under the current Blue Cross system, seniors pay 30 per cent of the cost of their drugs to a maximum of $25 per prescription, regardless of their income.

The proposal, announced in spring 2009 by former health minister Ron Liepert, was to exempt the lowest income retirees from any payments.

The government’s revised strategy was to reduce the amount of the current copayment to 20 per cent of a prescription’s cost up to $15 per drug, although new premiums were to also come into effect.

"In 20 years, Alberta’s seniors’ population will have doubled from 400,000 to more than 800,000 – an increase from 11 to 21 per cent of our population," Zwozdesky said in a statement. "As a result, a comprehensive approach is needed to address the needs of an aging and rapidly expanding population, and that simply requires more time to get it right."

jfekete@theherald.canwest.com

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