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Monday, May 11, 2009

GOA Goes After Big Tobacco to Recover Health Care Costs.

The Alberta government through the Minister of Health and Wellness just introduced Bill 48 today, Crown’s Right of Recovery Act. It is a great move and aimed at enabling the province to recover health costs incurred in a number of situations. They include car accidents but the law will use a wrongdoer’s insurance to recover health costs. That could get complicated in how to calculate the health costs associated.

The essence of the Bill is in section 2(1) that says in effect if someone receives health services for personal injuries due to wrongful acts or omission of a wrongdoer, the province then has the right to recover the health care costs, both current and future costs, from the wrongdoer. If someone, who is a victim receiving care due and contributory negligent, the wrongdoer is off the hook for that portion of the health care costs the victim is responsible for.

Bill 48 deals with convicted criminals who are hurt in committing a crime. They will be paying their health care costs. And it also goes after the tobacco industry to recover the health costs associated with the damage done by their products. The tobacco sections are very complex and I will need more time to study and digest what they mean and if second hand smoke is involved too. Overall - Wow! As a citizen and taxpayer, on first blush, I'm loving this Bill.

The province makes a direct claim for recovery of health care costs against tobacco companies so the patient is not involved in any messy litigation. The province looks like it is actually pursuing the tobacco companies on an aggregated basis to recover all health costs caused by and associated with tobacco produces. With tobacco, it looks like it is not dealt with on case by case approach but in the aggregate. That is smart.

Lots of detail to consider here but this is a great step in the right direction. It was impossible to get the Klein government to accept a ban on smoking in public and work places. There were numerous tries and all were rebuffed by Ralph Klein. That smoking ban was finally accomplished by Dave Hancock when he was Minister of Health and Wellness in the first Stelmach government.

His good work is being carried on by the current Minister, Ron Liepert. Full disclosure, I worked with a consortium of health professionals and advocacy groups to get the smoking ban in Alberta last year. There are lots on blog post in the archives if you want to know more about that initiative.

Bill 44 sucks but Bill 48 makes great sense.