1944-1948 – Premier Douglas assumed the role of Saskatchewan's Health Minister during the first term of his government, during which time the first steps towards Medicare were taken. New policies and building projects were based partly on the recommendations of the new Health Services Planning Commission. Major innovations included:
- Free health care for pensioners,
- Free psychiatric hospital treatment for the mentally ill, as well as the construction of Mental Health Clinics,
- Free cancer treatment for those in need,
- The creation of the first comprehensive health services region,
- Construction of new health care facilities,
- The creation of the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan,
- Air Ambulance to transport those in rural areas to central or regional hospitals.
January 1, 1947 – Douglas created Canada’s first universal and compulsory hospital insurance program – the Universal Hospital Services plan. It was the first program in North America to provide complete benefits to all residents. The legislation offered:
- Expanded hospital facilities (21 new hospitals over 4 years),
- X-rays and lab services,
- Common drugs and other hospital services,
- Compensation for a share of out of province medical costs,
- With payment for the insurance at a rate of $5 per person to a maximum of $30 per family.
April 25,1959 – Douglas announced his government’s revolutionary intention to introduce a universal and comprehensive medical care insurance program for the province. Nearing the end of his government’s fourth term in office, and with Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s newfound willingness to share in the cost of any universal health plan developed by a provincial government, the time was right for Douglas to proceed with his vision. His plan, however, was strongly opposed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, which not only governed and upheld the competency of the province’s medical professionals, but also protected the interests of the doctors.
June 8, 1960 – Douglas and his CCF Party’s overwhelming election victory represented the public approval necessary to bring the universal health insurance plan to fruition. Medicare, the revolutionary part of their election platform, was founded upon the following three major themes:
- A public system was necessary because a universal and comprehensive healthcare package would require citizens of the province to pay extremely high private insurance premiums,
- A lot of public money was needed to fund such an extensive program,
- The largesse of the program would require the government to be accountable for it’s management.
November 17, 1961 – Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act
The Act, put into legislation by new CCF Premier Woodrow S. Lloyd mere weeks after replacing the departed Tommy Douglas, gave the Medical Care Insurance Commission the power to run the new universal insurance system. In 1962 when the program came into effect, the premiums that replaced the payments for private insurance were $12 per individual per year or $24 for families. All Saskatchewanians would collectively pay for those who were sick, and all could be reassured that a terrible illness in the family wouldn’t lead to bankruptcy.