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article imageSeniors occupy Health Minister Fred Horne's office Special

By Paula Kirman     Jan 18, 2014 in World
Edmonton - A group of senior citizens in Edmonton occupied provincial Health Minister Fred Horne's office, demanding a meeting with Premier Alison Redford and Minister Horne concerning changes to the current universal seniors drug plan.
Members of advocacy groups such as Friends of Medicare and Public Interest Alberta also joined the sit-in, which began on Thursday, January 16 and continued until around 12:30 early Friday morning when remaining protesters were escorted away by police. Supporters were not permitted to bring food to those taking part in the sit-in.
On Friday, the seniors and supporters returned to Horne's office for a press conference. The conference had to be held outside, as Horne's office was closed for the day.
The change in question to the seniors drug program means doing away with the current systems in the province of Alberta, and moving to a means-tested system. The 2013/2014 Alberta Budget announced that the current universal Seniors Drug Plan would be eliminated and replaced with an income-based plan. "Absolutely no details of the new plan have been announced, though we have been told that its projected start date of January 1, 2014 has been delayed," a press statement from Public Interest Alberta states.
“We are angry and frustrated and want to remind Premier Redford of her own words: ‘Income-based supports are poor repayment for those who devoted their lives to building this province’,” says Noel Somerville, Chairperson of Public Interest Alberta’s Seniors Task Force. “Seniors deserve an honest and fair response and it is unfortunate that we need to go to such lengths to get a meeting.”
So far, the requested meeting has not happened or been scheduled. Minister Fred Horne issued a statement on Friday concerning the action. ”In Budget 2013, the Government of Alberta signaled it would move to consolidate the 18 current drug and supplementary benefit programs to a single plan. The purpose of this initiative is not to cut benefits or costs as has been suggested. Our goals are clear: to provide access to the approximately 20 per cent of Albertans who currently have no drug or benefit coverage, and to ensure our province can continue to provide the broadest possible range of drugs and other supplemental benefits to Albertans today, and for generations to come."
However, the groups involved in the protest view Minister Horne's statement as misleading. "Like other areas of health care, there is no room for means-testing as a barrier to preventing people getting the drugs they need," says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. "Asking chronically ill people to pay a given percentage of their incomes towards their required medicines is the same as taxing them for their poor health."
Seniors occupy Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne s Office to protest changes to the seniors drug pl...
Seniors occupy Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne's Office to protest changes to the seniors drug plan.
Doug Brinkman
Seniors occupy Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne s Office to protest changes to the seniors drug pl...
Seniors occupy Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne's Office to protest changes to the seniors drug plan.
Doug Brinkman
Seniors occupy Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne s Office to protest changes to the seniors drug pl...
Seniors occupy Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne's Office to protest changes to the seniors drug plan.
Doug Brinkman
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