12/31/2014 01:40 EST | Updated 03/02/2015 05:59 EST

Alberta Medical Association says province should consider health premiums

EDMONTON - The president of the Alberta Medical Association says the province should consider bringing back health premiums.

In a year-end letter to physicians, Dr. Richard Johnston says the government must ensure that the health system has stable funding.

He says the system is hobbled by poor planning, including unpredictable funding, due in part to the Alberta government's dependence on resource revenues.

Johnston says a sustainable, predictable source of revenue is required, whether it be a reintroduction of health premiums or some other means.

The government cancelled health premiums in 2009, which brought in about $1 billion a year to provincial coffers, to make good on an election promise.

At the time premiums cost families about $1,056 a year and single Albertans paid half that amount.

Johnston says Alberta needs to have a public discussion about health care, which requires a long-term commitment to building infrastructure and developing human skills.

He says the major challenge in the year ahead will be balancing quality of care with timely access in a sustainable and affordable health system.