Seniors’ pharmacare? It’s past time for a national, universal pharmacare program



Since we’ve been talking about seniors’ pharmacare, perhaps it’s time to change the modifier and resume a longstanding conversation about national pharmacare.

Canada is the only industrialized country in the world that boasts a universal health care program but offers no parallel national scheme so those who need prescription medications can actually get them.

The reality is that most of those who aren’t seniors or covered by private health care plans — minimum wage employees, seasonal workers, the ever increasing numbers of contract hires in the exponentially expanding freelance economy — don’t have a drug plan at all.

And, as we’ve discovered during the ongoing debate over changes to seniors pharmacare in Nova Scotia, even many of those who are supposedly covered also find themselves unable to foot the extra costs for co-pays, premiums and other deductibles, and therefore go without prescribed medications too.

The best estimate is that one in 10 Canadians cannot afford the prescription medications they need.

Ironically, Canada and its provincial and territorial governments pay more for prescription drugs than most other western countries.

That’s because, despite best efforts by some provinces, we’re still hobbled by a patchwork of public and private purchasing schemes so we can’t take advantage of national bulk buying, or force pharmaceutical companies to bid for our business.

In 2014, provincial and territorial governments spent $10.4 billion on prescription medications.

The reality, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal is that a Canada-wide, no-deductible prescription drug benefit program financed through personal income taxes would save rather than cost taxpayers, reducing public and private spending on prescription drugs by 32 per cent.

We’ve been talking about the need for such a program since at least the 2002 Romanow report on the future of health care. Unfortunately, that discussion got pushed off the front burner, the stove and out of the kitchen entirely during the Harper years.

Although Justin Trudeau has not expressed support for a national pharmacare program — the Liberal platform simply said it would make prescription drugs “more affordable” — his new Liberal government is committed to meeting with the province’s premiers to discuss a new Canada  Health Accord.

A national pharmacare program should be part of that discussion.

What role, if any, will our premier play in this discussion?

  1. I gather that TPP could stop any such efforts. Seems tragic in these days when so many are struggling, that so many obstacles of greed and stupidity are supported by our elected leaders.

    Maybe it could be instituted before ratification? Much harder to take away something already approved.

    But people have to demand it. Our media voices don t work for us much any more so how do we do that?


    • may I please say that I was born back in feb . 1950 and have seen a few rotten governments in my days have lived through some really hard times as my father and mother did as well but as far as I am concerned you cant put a well educated ,or a wealthy person or anyone who represents any large body of people or someone who has a ,or belongs to a business , as well anyone from the province that is from here in order for people to be treated equally right . also and its very important this statement that all provincial laws should be the same as all provinces as well the federal government upon viewing any said provincial laws and seeing that they might cause any
      confliction should have the right to strike down that provincially maid law


      • we are for all Canadians to get better access to and get better health care and this would include dr.s without offices of their own to be given the right to have a practice other then out patience and be aloud to take anyone from any where as their patient to many greedy people trying to save money they cant and never will . as far as we are concerned dr.s should be running the local hospitals , not administration by the time the dr gets done filling out endless forms he or she hardly has time to see many sick people in a day.
        I have actually had to pack a lunch for my diabetic wife who has high blood pressure and heart trouble , and lots of other problems medical all in nature. and go sit there for the better part of a day and wait ,. now I don’t care whos running the medical in the government theres no need of that kind of wait anywhere .


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