Na­tional phar­ma­care pro­gram: A no brainer?

The McLeod River Post - - Front Page -

As I write health­care min­is­ters are meet­ing in Ed­mon­ton to dis­cuss le­gal cannabis, phar­ma­care, men­tal health and the opi­oids cri­sis. All are wor­thy of dis­cus­sion and ac­tion but for this piece I’m go­ing to fo­cus on the set­ting up of a na­tional phar­ma­care pro­gram. Hope­fully, free pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions for all, re­gard­less of any­thing.

Prior to the min­is­ters get­ting to­gether a press state­ment from the Cana­dian Labour Congress (CLC) called em­phat­i­cally for a na­tional phar­ma­care pro­gram. The full re­lease reads: Cana­dian Labour Congress pres­i­dent Has­san Yus­suff says he is op­ti­mistic that phar­ma­care will emerge as a pri­or­ity in this week’s meet­ing be­tween fed­eral and pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial health min­is­ters.

The CLC will join other or­ga­ni­za­tions ad­vo­cat­ing for phar­ma­care at the meet­ings tak­ing place in Ed­mon­ton this Thurs­day and Fri­day Oc­to­ber 19 and 20.

“We will be there to en­cour­age the health min­is­ters to take steps that would ad­vance the dis­cus­sion around im­ple­men­ta­tion of a uni­ver­sal pre­scrip­tion drug plan that would cover ev­ery­one in Canada, re­gard­less of age, in­come or where they live,” said Yus­suff.

At July’s Coun­cil of the Fed­er­a­tion meet­ing, pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial pre­miers called on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to con­tinue to col­lab­o­rate with them and en­gage ac­tively in dis­cus­sions about es­tab­lish­ing a na­tional phar­ma­care plan.

Since then, the Par­lia­men­tary Bud­get Of­fi­cer is­sued a re­port us­ing the Que­bec gov­ern­ment’s pub­lic pre­scrip­tion drug plan for­mu­lary to es­ti­mate uni­ver­sal phar­ma­care would yield an­nual sav­ings of $4.2 bil­lion.

A sec­ond re­port from the Cana­dian Cen­tre for Pol­icy Al­ter­na­tives and Cana­dian Doc­tors for Medi­care used a more ef­fi­cient model to es­ti­mate net an­nual sav­ings of $11 bil­lion.

Canada is the only de­vel­oped coun­try in the world with a uni­ver­sal health care pro­gram that doesn’t in­clude a uni­ver­sal pre­scrip­tion drug plan. In­stead, our mul­ti­ple-payer sys­tem has re­sulted in the sec­ond high­est pre­scrip­tion drug costs in the world next to the United States. That’s left 3.5 mil­lion Cana­di­ans un­able to af­ford their pre­scrip­tions.

This past Labour Day, on the heels of a suc­cess­ful bid to ex­pand the Canada Pen­sion Plan, Canada’s unions launched a cam­paign call­ing for a na­tional phar­ma­care plan .

I have read that around 10 per cent of Cana­di­ans ei­ther do not col­lect their med­i­ca­tions, do no not go to the doc­tor or take less med­i­ca­tion than they should be­cause they can­not af­ford it. My gut tells me that 10 per cent may be on the low side. I know ex­actly how they feel be­cause there have been times be­cause I’ve been tak­ing long term med­i­ca­tion that I have had to make a choice on in­come grounds be­tween cut­ting down, which made me sick, or cut­ting out, which made me sicker. Choices are stark. Meds or gro­ceries for the fam­ily. Meds or util­i­ties. Meds or rent or mort­gage. I found a way to get by but my health did suf­fer. Thank­fully things turned around be­fore I had to go the doc­tor or hos­pi­tal. Many peo­ple are likely im­pos­ing more costs on the health sys­tem, which they wouldn’t need to.

Health­care is the big­gest ticket item on the bud­get. But when two re­ports con­clude that mak­ing med­i­ca­tion avail­able for ev­ery­one for free is ei­ther $11 bil­lion cheaper a year or $4.2 bil­lion cheaper a year with a like­li­hood that the sav­ings are go­ing to be some­where be­tween then a na­tional phar­ma­care pro­gram has to be a no brainer. Doesn’t it?

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