Decentralizing Alberta’s Health Care System: Implications for Employee Benefits Plans

The Implications of a Decentralized Health Care System on an Employee Benefits Plan


15 years after Alberta has completed the multi-stage process of centralizing the health care system, it is set to undergo significant decentralization, aiming to improve front-line care and decision-making processes. As the newly elected premier of the province after the provincial election held on May 29th, Danielle Smith has mandated Health Minister Adriana LaGrange to reform the management and structure of Alberta Health Services (AHS) to enhance access to world-class health care. While this revised shift to the provincial healthcare system has garnered mixed reception among Smith’s constituents and political peers, it has some promises for potential benefits pertaining to the overall healthcare system, yet it also raises questions about the implications it will have on an employee benefits plan in the future.

Learn about the recent changes in the health care system in Alberta and the newly adopted provincial policies and how they will impact an employee benefits plan.


Impacts on Employee Health Benefits Plans


Increased Flexibility and Personalization

With the decentralization of AHS, there may be increased flexibility in healthcare offerings and services, which could positively affect employee health benefits plans. Employers may have the opportunity to tailor plans to meet the specific needs of their workforce, allowing employees to access a broader range of services that align with their unique health requirements.


Enhanced Access to Primary Care

The focus on primary, acute, and continuing care under the decentralization plan could lead to improved access to primary care services for employees. This may result in better preventative care and timely treatment, potentially reducing the need for more extensive medical interventions in the long run.


Workforce Attraction and Retention

LaGrange’s mandate emphasizes attracting and retaining healthcare workers, especially in rural areas. This objective could positively impact employee health benefits plans as it may lead to an increase in healthcare professionals available to provide services covered by these plans.


Adoption of Alternative Models

The mandate calls for the assessment of alternative models of primary care and leveraging all healthcare professionals. While this could bring new and innovative approaches to healthcare delivery, it also raises concerns about the potential inclusion of alternative services in employee health benefits plans. Employers and employees will need to carefully evaluate the scope and effectiveness of such alternative services to ensure they align with the needs and expectations of the workforce.


Mental Health and Addiction Coverage

Danielle Smith has stated that she expects LaGrange to take a distinct focus on recovery from mental health and addiction as the decentralization of the health care system begins, which could mean that employee health benefits plans may see an increased emphasis on mental health services and support, an issue that is particularly prevalent as nearly one-third of Canadian employees (71%) have felt that their mental health had interfered with their work within the last year. Because of these statistics from a recent survey conducted by Manulife Financial Corp and Edelmen DXI, this new focus on mental health and addiction could be beneficial for employees dealing with these challenges, promoting a more holistic approach to well-being.


Uncertainty and Adaptation

The transformation of Alberta’s healthcare system is likely to be a complex and ongoing process. As the decentralization plan unfolds, employers may face uncertainty and the need to adapt their health benefits plans accordingly. Changes in healthcare service delivery, provider networks, and availability of specific services may require continuous evaluation and adjustments in the benefits offered to employees.



The decentralization of Alberta’s health care system in 2023 has the potential to bring both opportunities and challenges to an employee benefits plan in the province. While increased flexibility and personalization of services can benefit employees, the inclusion of alternative models and ongoing changes in the healthcare landscape may necessitate careful consideration and adaptability from employers.

As the decentralization plan progresses, employers should stay informed about developments in the healthcare system and their implications for employee benefits. It will be crucial to engage with healthcare providers, insurers, and employees to ensure that health benefits plans remain effective, relevant, and aligned with the evolving healthcare landscape. By actively monitoring and adapting to the changes, employers can continue to support the well-being of their workforce in a time of transformation in Alberta’s healthcare system.




At Health Risk Services, we help managers of benefits plans make strategic decisions to craft cost-effective personalized plans that can assist you and your organization in the changes related to the decentralization of the provincial healthcare system and how it may impact employee benefits plans. Whether the solution of preference for your company is adding additional support programs, renovating your existing coverage, or crafting intentional messaging, Health Risk is here to help!


To schedule your Complimentary Consultation with Health Risk Services, please call 403-236-9430 OR email: [email protected]