In a bid to gain traction in the upcoming federal elections, Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh this week with much fanfare introduced Pharmacare Plan which forms a major part of his signature platform. Singh says the plan will save Canadian families, on average, more than $500 a year, whether they have insurance or not.
“When you go into a pharmacy, you should not have to use your credit card, you should be able to use your health card,” Singh said.
“It is going to take us standing up against pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies.”
There were no numbers provided as part of the public announcement on how much the plan would initially cost to get started.
Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that doesn’t cover medication. The plan is projecting a savings of $4.2 billion in prescription costs across Canada.
According to survey numbers provided by the NDP, it is estimated that close to 2 million Canadians didn’t fill a prescription last year because they couldn’t afford it. One in five Canadians has no drug coverage at all and it is a fact that in the gig economy, drug plans are mostly non-existent.
Singh says the plan would be broad and cover a wide range of medications and ‘would be done in the broadest way possible.’
Not to be outdone, the federal Liberals in Ottawa are seriously studying the national Pharmacare issue and the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare is expected to present a report to the government this spring.
A brief interim report introduced in March recommended that national Pharmacare should include the creation of a national drug agency with a comprehensive, evidence-based formulary.
The council identified three major challenges facing Canada with regard to prescription drug coverage. First, as many as one in five Canadians have trouble paying for prescription drugs, according to the report.
In that report, it was found that drug coverage varied depending on people’s age, employer and medical condition in different parts of the country.
The report notes that the cost of Pharmacare has ballooned over several decades, increasing from $2.6 billion in 1985 to $34 billion in 2018.
With drug costs going up, such a plan once put in motion will be impossible for any successive government to scrap. It will be seen as an extension of free healthcare which is untouchable despite the soaring cost. Expect taxes to increase in order to pay for this plan as it certainly comes at a considerable cost. But in the era of economic uncertainty and an iffy employment landscape, this plan will prove to be very popular. Even more popular than the party that puts it forward. -CINEWS