Thursday, 12 December 2019
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Danny Cavanagh: Universal pharmacare will make life better for so many

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The news out of Ottawa yesterday was positive and like many others, we applaud the recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Implementation of a National Pharmacare Program for Canada. Finally they agree with us that we need a public, universal and single-payer plan for prescription drug coverage across the country.

I don’t think we should underestimate the benefits of this for all Canadians. Having universal pharmacare will make life better for so many. The Council is recommending a new drug agency that would be responsible for developing a national formulary, beginning with common or so-called essential medicines by January 1, 2022. It also recommends that the initial formulary is expanded to a fully comprehensive formulary no later than January 1, 2027.

It’s now in the political hands of government and we need you to urge your MP to have our Prime Minister act on this as soon as possible and accept the report’s recommendations. The Liberals must do this as soon as possible because they know the Council has talked to thousands of people from across the country who understand that the current patchwork system of prescription drug coverage is inadequate, unfair and very inefficient. The Liberals should listen to the hundreds of thousands of people from coast to coast who came out and sent in comments to the committee demanding a National Pharmacare plan for everyone.

The federal Liberals cannot make the mistake of bowing to corporate pressure by the big pharmaceutical companies.

Think about this…It was in 1966 when our Medicare system was first adopted and our unions have been leading the charge for a public, universal and single-payer Pharmacare plan for a long time.

Why? Because the evidence overwhelmingly shows that a public universal pharmacare program will provide equal access and coverage for everyone, reduce drug prices and will save employers and taxpayers billions of dollars. Without this, we are the only country with a national Medicare program that doesn’t provide national coverage for pharmacare. This report and its recommendations bring our country into the current century.

While we do not like the fact that the committee has also recommended co-payments and user fees in their report, we cannot lose sight that it also charts a path that will help every Canadian.

Although we don’t like the out-of-pocket costs, they have recommended that all products listed on the national formulary cannot exceed $5 per prescription, with a co-payment of $2 for essential medicines to an annual maximum of $100 per household per year. Having a national program can’t be overshadowed by co-payments. Let’s hope the political will is there to make this happen because we know that recent polls show that 89% of Canadians consistently say they support universal public pharmacare.

We are now calling on the federal and provincial governments to fully embrace the report’s recommendations and work together to accelerate its implementation. We say that because everyone with a health card in this country should be able to access the prescription medications they need when they need them, and that’s what this will do.

Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

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