BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Autumn, 2019
After all these years, why still no Pharmacare?
Millions of Canadian families cannot afford to take the medications they need to get healthy or manage chronic illnesses.
Too many seniors are putting their health at risk because they have to choose between paying for food, shelter and prescriptions.
The number of working people forced to skip their medications is also growing as more and more people work on contract, are self-employed, or have jobs that do not provide extended health benefits.
Alone in the world
Canada is the only country with a universal health care system that does not provide universal prescription coverage. The drugs people need are covered if they’re in a hospital, but not when they are discharged.
Coupled with the fact that we pay the third highest drug prices in the world it’s no wonder that so many people can’t afford the medications they need to stay healthy and out of the acute care system.
A legacy of failure
The current patchwork of programs and coverage we have, if we have coverage at all, is no accident. It’s the result of choices made by Liberal and Conservative governments. They have chosen to let big pharma gouge patients. They have chosen to leave millions of people uninsured or underinsured.
For ten years, instead of addressing the growing costs of drugs, the Conservatives made the problem worse. They reduced health care funding to the provinces. They undermined efforts to work together to develop a national approach on pharmaceuticals.
The Liberal government has spent four years stalling. Election after election, Liberals have promised lower drug costs. Instead they have delivered delays, reports that gather dust, and more of the same piecemeal system that is costing us more and more. Studies clearly show that such a patchwork approach – a two-tier system that relies on private for-profit insurance companies – can never provide the savings and coverage that Canadians need.
Coverage for everyone
BC FORUM has campaigned for years, along with our allies in the labour movement and seniors’ organizations, for public, comprehensive, universal prescription drug coverage for all Canadians.
New Democrats have steadfastly supported our efforts to achieve this goal.
Their 2019 election platform makes it clear they will take immediate action to make it happen.
“Just as our party led the fight to establish universal public health care for all Canadians, we are leading the fight to expand Medicare – to include quality prescription drug coverage for everyone, regardless of your job, where you live, your age, your health status or how much money you make,” say the New Democrats.
“We will begin working with the provinces right away to target a late 2020 start date, with an annual federal investment of $10 billion.”
This would provide access to necessary medicines in the same way we have access to medical and hospital care. It would be free at the point of care, financed by a public insurance system that covers everyone. All you would need at the pharmacy till is your health card, not your credit card. It would end costly co-payments, deductibles and premiums that cost families hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year.
“Our plan will guarantee that every Canadian can get the medication they need. And it will mean big savings for employers who currently pay for employee benefits, helping to reward good employers and boost economic growth. It will also cost our system less overall, as a result of pooling the purchasing power of the entire country,” New Democrats say.
“Most importantly, our pharmacare plan will mean a healthier Canada where no one has to make the impossible choice between the medicine they need and other essentials like rent and food.”