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BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Autumn 2018

Campaign for Pharmacare
What good is ‘free’ health care when you
can’t afford the treatment?

 

We need a public national drug plan

Two Royal Commissions – in 1964 and 2002 – and countless studies have recommended that prescription drugs be covered under Medicare.

It just makes sense. A ‘free’ visit to a doctor or hospital is of no value if the patient can’t afford the prescribed cure of treatment.

“All of us must communicate on this,” said Diane Wood, President of BC FORUM.

“Over and above meeting with our MPs and MLAs, Canadians need to join the discussion and give the government the full picture in the consultation that’s now underway,” she said.

Online consultation

You can participate by making a written submission or completing the Advisory Council on Pharmacare’s questionnaire at www. letstalkhealth.ca/pharmacare. Do it today. The deadline is Sept. 28.

Labour speaks out

The Canadian Labour Congress and the BC Federation of Labour have both campaigned for a universal, single-payer pharmacare plan.

“With millions of Canadians unable to afford to pay for vital prescription drugs to keep them alive and healthy, it’s time for concerted national action through the cooperation of all federal, provincial and territorial governments to address a growing crisis,” said Irene Lanzinger, Chair of BC FORUM and President of the BCFED.

“Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal health care program that doesn’t include universal prescription drug coverage,” she said. “And everyone here knows someone who isn’t able to afford to take their medication as prescribed.

“The facts are clear about the magnitude of the problem,” said Lanzinger. “About one out of three working British Columbians—close to 800,000 people—lack employerfunded prescription drug coverage.

“BC also has the highest percentage of precarious, low-paying part-time workers of the major provinces. The inequality gap here between the rich and the poor is staggering, and it puts the high cost of many prescription drugs beyond the financial reach of hundreds of thousands more workers.”

Lanzinger said the BC labour movement believes one option stands out as the best path for change.

“A single-payer, universal prescription drug plan would ensure that no matter where Canadians live and work, everyone with a health card would have coverage for their prescription medications’” she said.

Our drug costs are the second highest in the world

CLC President Hassan Yussuff said Canada’s unions are ready and willing to work with the advisory council to make sure that we get pharmacare right for everyone. “Pharmacare is the unfinished business of medicare and Canadians have been waiting since 1966 for publicly administered universal prescription drug coverage,” said Yussuff.

“As I travelled the country, I heard from Canadians who are struggling with insufficient coverage, increasing co-payments, restrictions and limitations that make every day a struggle. We hope this council will give voice to those people and inspire confidence that the health of their families will no longer be a financial burden.”

In fall 2017, the CLC launched “Pharmacare: A Plan for Everyone”, a national campaign that included a cross-country tour to highlight the failures of Canada’s inefficient patchwork system of prescription drug coverage. Studies show that 3.5 million people are unable to afford to fill their prescriptions. Many are splitting their pills or skipping days to stretch the prescriptions they do fill.

The Canadian Health Coalition says a national drug plan should cover everyone equally. “Right now there are 113,000 private plans and 70 public plans that cover people differently, depending where they work and where they live,” says the Coalition.

That’s one of the reasons why drug prices in Canada – already the second highest in the world – are the fastest growing health care cost.

Steve Morgan, a UBC professor who specializes in drug policy says Canada’s multi-payer system leads to a fragmentation of our purchasing power.

He said the best solution is a national pharmacare program that would determine what treatments are covered and at what price, which would allow for tougher negotiations with global drug companies.

“That drug plan suddenly becomes one of the biggest purchasers of medicine in the world and it begins to exercise a power with manufacturers that we don’t have in Canada,” he said.

The BC Health Coalition says “medicine is health care.” However, one study reported that 29 percent o f British Columbians – the highest level in Canada – said they or someone else in their household hadn’t taken medication as prescribed because they couldn’t afford to.

For the health of all Canadians that must change. National pharmacare is in everyone’s best interests, both socially and financially.

Estimates show we could save anywhere from $4 billion to $11 billion a year through a universal drug plan.

“That’s billions of dollars that could be used to provide Canadians with medicines and better health care if we go with a universal drug plan,” says the BC Health Coalition.

 

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