Pharmacare for All
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Canada remains the only country in the world with a universal health care system that doesn't include prescription medication.
In 1966, Canada’s Medical Care Act was passed, and provided universal, publicly-administered health care to all Canadians. Yet two years earlier, a universal, public pharmacare program to cover the costs of prescription medications was recommended to be included in the national Medicare system by the Royal Commission on Health Services.
Five decades later, Canadians spend $30 billion to fill more than 600 million prescriptions each year. That’s more than four times what they spent on prescriptions 20 years ago.
Drug prices continue to skyrocket for Canadians and more people have to choose between getting the medications they need and paying for necessities, like food or rent. Currently, 2 million Canadians incur over $1,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs, and one in five Canadian families can’t even afford to fill their prescriptions because of cost.
Canada can do better than this.
A publicly funded, universal drug coverage program paid for by progressive taxation – also known as Pharmacare – would provide all Canadians with access to the prescription medicines they need. People would be healthier and many would no longer have the economic burden of paying for medications out-of-pocket. Canadian employers and corporations would also benefit by not having to include expensive drug plans in employees’ benefit packages.
Canada cannot afford not to have a universal, national Pharmacare program. In fact, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer stated in 2017 that a national Pharmacare programs would save $4.2 billion every year. A universal program would also outperform what many Canadian workers, both union and non-union, receive in their employer-sponsored plans. This is because a publicly-administered program would have the power to engage in bulk purchasing and better negotiate for lower prices, driving down costs.
According to recent opinion polls, 9 in 10 Canadians support the creation of a national Pharmacare program to provide universal access to prescription drugs.
It’s time that Canada lived up to its original promise over fifty years ago and establish a fully universal health care system that works for everyone. It’s time for the federal government to create a universal, comprehensive, publicly-administered and sustainable Pharmacare program.
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