“The case for public pharmacare has been made. Its one of those rare public policy initiatives in which there is no downside. … Politically it should be a no-brainer.” – Economist Hugh Mackenzie
From the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union
Posted December 14th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
All Canadians can get their illness diagnosed without any out-of-pocket costs under our public health care system. But millions of Canadians cannot afford needed medications to treat or cure their illnesses.
People with cancer or HIV/AIDs are faced with drug costs that amount to thousands of dollars per month. Their drugs are tragically unaffordable for anyone without a drug insurance plan, and often a huge problem even for those who think they would have coverage under their drug plans but find out that the drug they need is not covered, or there are increasing co-pays or other restrictions in their insurance plan.
Earlier this December, as the Prime Minister (of Canada) and Premiers from the provinces and territories met over dinner to talk about health care funding, Canada’s nurses released an important new report on “pharmacare” (a national drug insurance program just like public health care for all). The report lays waste to any notion that we can’t afford a drug program that covers everyone. In fact, Canadians can’t afford not to.
In the report, Economist Hugh Mackenzie crunches the numbers, comparing drug prices paid by individual Canadians and workplace drug plans, and provincial and federal government drug plans, to drug costs under “universal” (meaning everyone-is-covered) public drug plans in peer countries.
Mackenzie finds that if the federal government had not abandoned steps towards pharmacare 10 years ago when the Harper government walked away from the negotiating table with the provinces, and instead had implemented a national pharmacare program, Canadians would have saved $62 billion. He notes that this is a conservative figure, as the comparable “peer” countries used in the analysis are those with some of the highest drug costs in the world, themselves.
Based on Mackenzie’s calculations, the nurses report that $62 billion has been wasted so far, by not bringing in a national drug program. They are pushing our governments to implement pharmacare in Canada (as is the case in every country with a public health system) for all Canadians.
This is such a huge number, it is hard to fathom. To break it down, $62 billion wasted over the 10 years in which we have had no national drug program due to governments’ failure to act in the public interest, equals $7.3 billion wasted each year, or a whopping $17.1 million each day.
The bottom line? Everyone in Canada — from individuals and families, to businesses paying too-high drug plan costs, to provincial governments and the federal government has billions in waste that could be saved by transitioning to a public drug insurance plan.
How does this work? Canada pays the second highest drug prices of all countries with developed economies, second only to the United States. A national drug plan would integrate our fragmented patchwork of employer, provincial, national and individual payment for drugs and enable bulk buying and improved prices.
It works in the same way that our public health insurance system in Canada (OHIP in Ontario) covers everyone and costs far less in taxes than private health insurance in the United States, which provides far less coverage for far more money. There are billions more to be saved, Mackenzie finds, by reducing profit-taking and high overhead costs from the array of private insurance plans and other measures.
“The case for public pharmacare has been made. Its one of those rare public policy initiatives in which there is no downside. With a pharmacare plan — we will have a significantly more effective system that will cost significantly less. Politically it should be a no-brainer, eliminate waste and deliver a better service.”
For more information on the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union and its reports and activities click on – https://nursesunions.ca/about-us .
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