We need phar­ma­care for ev­ery­one

A truly uni­ver­sal sys­tem is af­ford­able and achiev­able

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AN­DREA HORWATH An­drea Horwath is the leader of On­tario’s New Democrats.

In ad­di­tion to guar­an­tee­ing drug cov­er­age for ev­ery On­tar­ian, uni­ver­sal phar­ma­care is good for lo­cal busi­nesses and our econ­omy.

When you need a pre­scrip­tion, you should be able to walk out of your doc­tor’s of­fice and know that you can fill it, no mat­ter how old you are or how much money you make.

Uni­ver­sal ac­cess to pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions should be part of public health care for ev­ery On­tar­ian. No one should have to empty their wal­let or rack up a credit-card bill to get the medicine they need.

But that’s sadly not how it works in On­tario to­day.

I hear from peo­ple who have been driven to the break­ing point by costs that keep go­ing up, and have to choose be­tween pay­ing the hy­dro bill, or buy­ing the med­i­ca­tions that they need.

One in four peo­ple in On­tario are not tak­ing their med­i­ca­tion be­cause of cost. And they of­ten wind up in our over­crowded hospi­tals with a health cri­sis that puts their life at risk. As more and more in­se­cure jobs come with low pay and no ben­e­fits at all, the prob­lem is only get­ting worse.

Too many politi­cians have ig­nored these prob­lems for far too long. And On­tario has built a patch­work of pro­grams that leave out mil­lions of peo­ple.

So let’s stop wait­ing. Let’s do some­thing about it.

On­tario’s NDP has a bold but af­ford­able plan to cre­ate the first uni­ver­sal phar­ma­care program for all On­tar­i­ans.

We will en­sure that ev­ery­one has the drug cov­er­age they need, start­ing with ac­cess to es­sen­tial medicines like pre­scrip­tions for high blood pres­sure, di­a­betes, high choles­terol and asthma. Our ap­proach for start­ing a uni­ver­sal phar­ma­care program for ev­ery­one is the one rec­om­mended by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and re­searchers at St. Michael’s Hospi­tal.

From day one, our phar­ma­care plan will cover ev­ery On­tar­ian. Mil­lions of workingage peo­ple will have drug cov­er­age for the first time, and no one will ever lose it. Our plan also keeps all ex­ist­ing drug plans in place.

No mat­ter how old you are, where you work, or how much you earn, New Democrats will make sure you have uni­ver­sal public drug cov­er­age. That means lower costs, less worry, and bet­ter health for peo­ple across the province.

Our plan will cost $475 mil­lion, based on in­de­pen­dent pro­jec­tions val­i­dated by lead­ing Cana­dian re­searchers. That’s just onethird of one per cent of the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s to­tal an­nual bud­get.

As Dr. Steve Mor­gan, one of Canada’s lead­ing ex­perts on phar­ma­care, says, “A program of this kind is a prac­ti­cal way of sig­nif­i­cantly im­prov­ing ac­cess to medicines while dra­mat­i­cally low­er­ing over­all drug costs. Uni­ver­sal public cov­er­age of es­sen­tial medicines is a sig­nif­i­cant and fea­si­ble step in the right di­rec­tion.”

In ad­di­tion to guar­an­tee­ing drug cov­er­age for ev­ery On­tar­ian, uni­ver­sal phar­ma­care is good for lo­cal busi­nesses and our econ­omy.

Through our plan, busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als will re­al­ize sav­ings of $835 mil­lion to $1.9 bil­lion, which can be rein­vested in ex­panded health ben­e­fits for em­ploy­ees. As the gov­ern­ment pro­vides uni­ver­sal drug cov­er­age to all On­tar­i­ans, we will be able to ne­go­ti­ate lower drug prices with the en­hanced bar­gain­ing power of nearly 14 mil­lion On­tar­i­ans. The ev­i­dence is clear. This is a win-win for work­ing fam­i­lies and On­tario’s econ­omy, and can help re­lieve some of the pres­sure on our over­crowded hospi­tals.

It’s not just af­ford­able. For the sake of mil­lions of peo­ple across On­tario who need uni­ver­sal drug cov­er­age, we can’t af­ford not to do it.

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