Surrey Business News
A Universal Pharmacare Program is Good for Canadian Businesses and Our Economy
The Surrey Board of Trade wants the federal government to adopt a Universal Pharmacare Program.
The Surrey Board of Trade’s position paper, released in 2015, indicates that drug coverage in Canada is provided through an incomplete patchwork of private and public programs that varies across provinces.
This fragmented system reduces access to medicines, diminishes drug purchasing power, duplicates administrative costs, and isolates pharmaceutical management from the management of medical and hospital care. It is needlessly costing Canadian businesses billions of dollars every year.
The federal government, in this year’s federal budget is expected to announce a fill-in-thegaps insurance model. This will continue the fragmentation, leaving workers who need specialized insurance needs out of the workforce without a structured approach to Pharmacare.
The Surrey Board of Trade, as the only chamber of commerce/board of trade to speak at the Federal Standing Committee on Health in May 2016, indicated that:
• Managing healthcare in discrete silos, whereby doctors manage care, and insurance companies manage the pharmaceuticals required, is greatly inefficient. Health care providers should be the first and final managers of all health
• Removing pharmaceuticals from insurance coverage allows for expanding other, non-urgent services, such as hearing aids, dental care, and mental health support – as well as supporting health prevention programs for businesses and industries;
• Small businesses — a cornerstone of our economy — are the least likely to offer drug coverage. Simply put, they can’t afford it for the same reason that individuals find it difficult or impossible to get insurance if they have chronic disease: private insurance companies are not charities. Private insurers must charge groups and individuals premiums that reflect their actuarial risk;
• The problem is that about one in 10 adults have costly, chronic needs for prescriptions — to treat such conditions as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, heartburn or arthritis. Smaller firms have difficulty shouldering the risk of employing a worker with such needs, or one with a spouse or child with such needs. The situation is worse for entrepreneurs who want to work for themselves but have chronic health needs in their families;
• All of this this leads to a labour market wherein people with chronic medical needs in their families must choose jobs based on insurance. In the face of a skill shortage crisis in many industry sectors, this decision-making process does not work;
• Matters will only get worse as more specialized medicines — which can cost $50,000 or even $500,000 per patient per year — come to market. Currently, specialty medicines account for 1.3 per cent of private drug-plan claims, but their costs add up to a staggering 24.2 per cent of total drug-plan spending. These extraordinary costs should not be borne by a single business;
• Drug prices in Canada are among the highest in the world, mostly because our myriad of private drug plans dilutes the country’s potential purchasing power on the world market for pharmaceuticals;
• A Universal Pharmacare Program would save Canada’s private sector more than $8 billion annually while covering all Canadians for virtually all drugs — including all expensive biologic drugs;
• Our estimates included the cost of increased use of medicines that will result from increased access for Canadians who are currently under- or uninsured. Additional savings can improve patient health and reduce demand on our hospitals;
• Of particular interest to Canadian businesses is the fact that, if a national pharmacare program on par with average comparable countries were instituted today, private-sector employers and unions would save more than $5.5 billion, net of the $2 to $10 co-payments that would be charged under such a program;
• It is important to note that such savings would not come at the expense of the taxpayer. The power of a universal public program as a negotiator of drug prices and promoter of appropriate prescribing is such that the incremental public cost to government of a universal program — including the cost of increased use of medicines resulting from expanded public coverage — would be only $1 billion, shared across all 13 provinces and territories and the federal government;
• Universal Pharmacare would not only help the working poor, the uninsured and the sick. It would also enable Canadian businesses to remain competitive in the global marketplace by securing the health of their workforce at far lower cost to business and society as a whole.
The lack of universal Pharmacare is bad for Canadian businesses, large and small.
It is time for Canada’s business leaders to call for universal, public Pharmacare. Businesses care about the health and well-being of the Canadian workforce. Employees that can afford the medicines as and when prescribed will be healthier, happier and more productive.