Health committee cheers idea of national pharmacare program, but cost an issue

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu says she fears costs could be far higher than $19 billion

Publicly funded prescription drugs under a universal pharmacare program would provide better health care to Canadians at a lower cost than the status quo, the House of Commons health committee declared Wednesday after two years of work and some 99 witnesses.

“Canadians can save money and have better health outcomes with a national pharmacare program,” committee chair Bill Casey said in releasing the group’s long-awaited report.

After hearing from health care advocates and expert witnesses, Casey said he was surprised to learn just how many Canadians are simply opting to forego important medications that they need for serious health conditions.

“They know they’re going remain ill and they know they’re not going to get better because they just can’t afford those pharmaceuticals.”

The current patchwork of drug coverage in Canada is just not working, he said. “It’s a very erratic system and as a result we pay more for pharmaceuticals than 26 other OECD countries.”

Wednesday’s report includes 18 recommendations the committee says could form a blueprint of sorts for a new single-payer, publicly funded prescription drug coverage program for all Canadians.

But there was disagreement among the all-party committee about just how much such a program would cost and how it should be implemented.

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu says she fears the costs could be far higher than the $19 billion annual estimate put forward in a recent report by the parliamentary budget officer.

It’s also unclear how many Canadians who are currently covered by private drug plans would be willing to give up the coverage they receive in exchange for a publicly funded model, she added.

“I think it’s important to answer the questions that remain; there was some conflicting data within the report,” she said, ”and also to talk to the provinces, because they have jurisdiction in this area.”

Following question period Wednesday, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said she had not yet had a chance to review the report, but promised that an advisory group established in February would review the recommendations and build upon this work.

The advisory group, led by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins, was announced as part of the federal budget in February to work with provinces and territories and Indigenous groups on the feasibility of a national pharmacare plan.

NDP MPs accused Petitpas Taylor and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of stalling for time.

“We know one in five Canadians can’t afford to pay for their medication,” said NDP finance critic Peter Julian.

“Mr. Trudeau doesn’t have any more excuses not to act… universal single-payer pharmacare is not only cost effective, will not only save Canadians money, it will ensure that every Canadian has access to the medication they need.”

Health care advocacy groups that have long called for a national pharmacare program cheered the committee report, and urged the government to act quickly on its recommendations.

The recommendations include calls for a national drug formulary that would be cost-shared between the federal government and the provinces and territories, with additional support from health transfer payments going to the provinces and territories.

Such work demands careful negotiation and a science-based approach, said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

“You need the how-to steps, what are the steps that Canada and the provinces and territories are going to take,” she said.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VIDEO: École Puntledge Park Elementary celebrates winter solstice

The event was a part of the school’s Indigenous education curriculum

Valley company reaching out to women near and far

Three Comox Valley business women know firsthand what good menstrual products can… Continue reading

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Miniature horses visit Glacier View residents

Glacier View Lodge residents had a couple of special visitors on Wednesday… Continue reading

Annual women’s march in Courtenay Saturday

The Women’s March was a worldwide protest on Jan. 21, 2017, to… Continue reading

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Overworked and understaffed: More than 300 vacancies in Vancouver Island nursing

Tentative deal with province includes ‘working short premium’ to encourage hiring

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

RCMP’s use of force in arrest of Island man not excessive, judge rules

Campbell River man high on cocaine led high speed chase through city’s downtown

Most Read