Liberals set foundation for pharmacare, ensuring it becomes key election campaign.
The federal government’s 2018 budget created an advisory group to study implementing a National Pharmacare Program.
The report is expected to be ready next year, but critics say there have been enough studies done in the past and it’s time to establish the program.
Ontario’s former Health Minister Eric Hoskins was picked by the federal government to lead the push for a national pharmacare program.
“We have created an advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare to be headed by Dr. Eric Hoskins, his team will have the mandate to study, evaluate and ultimately recommend options on a path forward on pharmacare,” said Finance Minister Bill Morneau during the Feb. 27 budget speech.
Many Canadians face substantial out-of-pocket charges for prescription medicines. Most of them belong to the lower and middle-income groups, who cannot afford prescribed medicines.
Morneau said as he tabled his third budget that at least one in 10 Canadians couldn’t afford the prescription drugs. Every year more than a million Canadians are forced to give up food and home heating to afford their prescriptions.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said during a media scrum the government’s proposed study is not a plan, it is a fantasy.
“We don’t see even a single dollar of investment in a plan to implement pharmacare,” he said. “Around 1.6 million Canadians currently are either skipping dosage or not taking a medication they need, seniors are cutting their pills in half.
“This is a widely important step for us to take and someone should push for it, but this government is just announcing a study and a study that has no funding behind it,” Singh said.
A National Pharmacare Program is recommended by numerous national studies, Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada report of November 2002 and has been discussed as part of a complete medicare program since the 1940s.
A Canadian Medical Association Journal cross-sectional nationwide survey of 28,091 Canadians in February 2018 found the cost of purchasing prescription drugs remains a major problem for many.
Charges for prescription medicines lead patients to forego basic needs and to use more health care services, according to the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP).
During the last year, six per cent of more than 300,000 CARP members have not filled a prescription due to cost, Wanda Morris, VP of Advocacy at CARP, told Humber News in an interview.
“Initially we were disappointed in the lack of concrete action for pensioners and pleased with pharmacare, but now that Bill Morneau seems to be walking back the pharmacare promise, we’re even less happy,” she said.
Morris said Implementing a National Pharmacare Program for prescription medications would amount to $4.2 billion annual savings in Canada, but the government keeps delaying pharmacare to gain its political benefits closer to the election year.