Federal Advisory Council Recommends Canada implement Universal, Single-Payer Public Pharmacare

Canada’s current patchwork of thousands of private and public prescription plans is not sustainable

“Universal, single-payer public pharmacare will result in better value for money and substantial savings for governments, businesses, and individual Canadians.”                                                   – from the Advisory Council’s Report

Canada’s Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor

“Canadians face some of the highest prescription drug prices in the world. This influences Canadians’ access to important medications and the sustainability of Canada’s health care system. … Over the coming months, we will carefully review the Council’s final report and its recommendations. … Our Government remains committed to implementing national pharmacare in a manner that is affordable for Canadians and their families, employers, and governments.”                                     – Canada’s Health Minister, Ginette Petitpas Taylor

Canadian Union of Public Employees leader Mark Hancock

” The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) welcomes the National Pharmacare Advisory Council’s recommendation of a universal, single-payer pharmacare program for Canada, and is urging the federal government to immediately put it into action. … Nearly one quarter of households in Canada include someone who is not taking their medication as prescribed because of cost, and one in 10 Canadians can’t afford their medication at all.”                 – CUPE National President Mark Hancock 

A News Release from Health Canada

Posted June 12th, 2019 on Niagara At Large

OTTAWA, Ontario – The Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare (the Council) is recommending that Canada implement universal, single-payer, public pharmacare.

The Council recommends the federal government work in partnership with provincial and territorial governments to establish a universal, single-payer public system of prescription drug coverage in Canada to ensure everyone has access to the drugs they need to maintain their physical and mental health.

The Council also recommends the establishment of a Canadian drug agency, which would be responsible for developing a national list of prescription drugs (the formulary) beginning with an initial formulary of common or so-called essential medicines by January 1, 2022. The Council recommends that this initial formulary expand to a fully comprehensive formulary, to be in place no later than January 1, 2027.

Universal, single-payer public pharmacare will provide access to prescribed medicines for all Canadians, including the estimated one in five who are either uninsured or underinsured. A national formulary will ensure the same medicines are offered right across Canada.

Ontario Doug Ford’s friend and political ally, Federal Tory leader Andrew Scheer (right), is already putting a little political poison in the pill by declaring that the Trudeau Liberal government cannot be trusted to implement a universal pharmacare program. When the federal Harper Tory government that Scheer was part of was in power, and it received calls across the country for a pharmacare program, it did NOTHING

The Council is recommending that pharmacare be portable for Canadians wherever they travel or live within Canada; that there be a separate pathway, with dedicated funding, for expensive drugs for rare diseases; and that the approval process for drugs be further streamlined so Canadians can get faster access to new, innovative drugs.

Universal, single-payer public pharmacare will result in better value for money and substantial savings for governments, businesses, and individual Canadians.

Once implemented, pharmacare’s stronger negotiating power, lower administrative costs, as well as other improvements will save taxpayers an estimated $5 billion annually. Savings for individual Canadians and their families will be significant and tangible. 

Canadian families will save, on average, $350 per year. Pharmacare will also provide businesses with much-needed relief from the high and growing cost of prescription drug insurance. 

The average business owner who provides drug coverage will save over $750 annually per employee. The Council recommends that Canadians and employers continue to be able to purchase private drug insurance as a form of supplementary insurance to national pharmacare.

The Council heard from thousands of Canadians and found a strongly shared belief that everyone in Canada should have access to prescription drugs based on their need and not their ability to pay, in a manner that is fair and sustainable.

The delivery of the report marks the completion of the Council’s mandate. It is the product of discussions with Canadians, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous governments and representative organizations, patients, labour, business, industry and other experts in relevant fields.

Quotes

Dr. Eric Hoskins, who headed up the Federal Advisory Council on Pharamcare

“The time for universal, single-payer public pharmacare has come. This is our generation’s national project: better access to the medicines we need, improved health outcomes, and a fairer and more sustainable prescription medicine system. Let’s complete the unfinished business of universal health care. That can be our promise, and our legacy, to each other and to all future generations.” – Dr. Eric Hoskins, Chair, Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare

Quick Facts

  • Canadians spent $34 billion on prescription medicines in 2018.
  • On a per capita basis, only the United States and Switzerland spend more on medicines.
  • One in five Canadians struggle to pay for their prescription medicines. Three million don’t fill their prescriptions because they can’t afford to. One million Canadians cut spending on food and heat to be able to afford their medicine.
  • Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that does not provide universal coverage for prescription drugs.
  • The federal government created the Council to provide independent advice on how to best implement national pharmacare in a manner that is affordable for Canadians and their families, employers and governments.
  • Over the past 12 months, the Council studied Canadian and international models of pharmacare. Over 32,000 individuals and organizations shared their views through online interactions, letters, written submissions and meetings held across Canada.
  • The Council travelled to every province and territory and held in-person discussions through roundtables, meetings and community dialogue sessions. The Council also held discussions with stakeholders, provinces and territories and Indigenous governments and representative organizations.

A summary of what the Council heard throughout their national dialogue is available online.

Related Information

Backgrounder
Statement from the Government of Canada on the Final Report from the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare
Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare Interim Report
Interim Report
What We Heard Report

A Response to the Advisory Council’s Report from  Canada’s Health Minister, Ginette Petitpas Taylor

“Canadians face some of the highest prescription drug prices in the world. This influences Canadians’ access to important medications and the sustainability of Canada’s health care system. That is why, in Budget 2018, we announced the creation of the Council to make recommendations on how to best move forward on implementing a national pharmacare program.

Over the coming months, we will carefully review the Council’s final report and its recommendations. We look forward to continuing to work closely and collaboratively with the provinces and territories and with our partners and stakeholders as we consider next steps. We will also continue moving forward with other important initiatives, including those announced in Budget 2019, to improve access to prescription drugs and to make medications more affordable for all Canadians.

Our Government remains committed to implementing national pharmacare in a manner that is affordable for Canadians and their families, employers, and governments. We know that our existing patchwork of drug coverage is not working well, leading to poorer health for some and higher costs for us all. We have to do better. Canadians should never have to choose between paying for prescription drugs and putting food on the table.”

A Comment on the Federal Advisory Council’s Recommendations  from One of Canada’s Largest Unions

Federal government must act now to implement universal single-payer pharmacare, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

OTTAWA, June 12, 2019 – The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) welcomes the National Pharmacare Advisory Council’s recommendation of a universal, single-payer pharmacare program for Canada, and is urging the federal government to immediately put it into action.

For years, CUPE has been calling on the federal government to create a universal, single-payer pharmacare program.

Nearly one quarter of households in Canada include someone who is not taking their medication as prescribed because of cost, and one in 10 Canadians can’t afford their medication at all. Almost one million Canadians report having to make choices between paying for their medications or paying for other essentials like food and home heating.

Today’s announcement marks a major step towards making life better for Canadians who rely on life-saving medication, however, CUPE National President Mark Hancock says the questions of timing and funding remain major causes for concern.

“We welcome the Council’s report but let’s keep in mind that Finance Minister Bill Morneau is already on record saying he supports the same patchwork model as Bay Street and the insurance lobby, and the report’s concessions to big pharma and the insurance industry are troubling,” said Hancock. “Today’s announcement will only mean something when the government commits to the legislation and the funding to make a universal pharmacare plan a reality.”

CUPE believes that any pharmacare plan must begin within a single government mandate, accompanied by the funding needed to get it off the ground in short order. CUPE is concerned that the Council’s recommended phase-in for a comprehensive formulary is too slow, spanning multiple government mandates, and runs the risk of being lost under different governments.

“Canada is the last country with national public health care that doesn’t have a pharmacare program,” said Hancock. “Canadians have waited long enough for pharmacare – they can’t afford to wait another four or eight years for governments to get their act together.”

A Message from the Leader of another major Canadian Union on Pharmacare. To hear and it, please click on the screen below –

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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