The Harper government is apparently about to dip its toe in the debate over the future of health care.
The current federal-provincial funding arrangement that guaranteed a six per cent increase every year doesn't expire until 2014.
But The Canadian Press has learned that large chunks of the bureaucracy is kicking into high gear and examining how to proceed.
A senior government source says the federal cabinet is batting around the idea of a non-partisan cross-country panel or task force that would lay the groundwork for a more political debate later on.
The president of the Canadian Medical Association says the pressure for a serious debate about reform is intense, despite it being a touchy subject for many politicians.
Jeff Turnbull would like to see things start with a broad discussion about what Canadians believe are the principles of medicare that must be preserved.
He says the political decision-makers would then need to look at how to make the system efficient and accountable, and how to pay for it.