CLHIA calls for a piece of the pharmacare pie

by Nicolas Heffernan26 Mar 2015
The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) is fighting to get on the same playing field as government, as calls for pharmacare system reform grow louder.

“A single government monopoly is not needed," Frank Swedlove, President and CEO of the CLHIA said today. "Bulk purchasing of drugs will lead to major savings. These savings can be achieved through greater cooperation between the public and private sectors.”

With Canadians paying some of the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, the provinces and territories formed the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, with the goal of negotiating better prices on both brand name and generic prescription drugs.

“The challenge is they have not extended that pricing to employer plans and individuals,” said Stephen Frank vice president of policy development and health at the CLHIA.

The latest report, from the University of British Columbia, found the country could save $7.3 billion annually with universal public coverage of medically necessary prescription drugs.

Canada's current patchwork system of prescription drug coverage is complex, resulting in unduly high costs for Canadians and creating inequities between individuals.

With provinces already working together to negotiate drug prices, the CLHIA doesn’t want to be left on the sidelines.

"The Canadian life and health insurance industry stands committed to working with governments to obtain these savings," said Swedlove. "At the same time, we must preserve the benefits from competition and innovation that the private sector provides to the marketplace."

The industry association also called for a review of the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board’s operations and mandate, recommending it “adopt a market-based approach and strive to set the maximum price at the lowest possible level for Canadians.”  The board regulates the prices for drugs by establishing the maximum price for medicines in Canada.

The association also continued its call for the establishment of a minimum formulary, which would cover a set list of drugs across the country, ensuring a baseline of coverage for all Canadians. It would significantly reduce the existing complexity in the system.

COMMENTS

  • by 2015-03-27 8:31:39 AM

    Having been in the business for over 36 years, the one thing that has remained a dominant constant, is the inability of the insurance industry to innovate on any product or service. The industry takes a "wait and see" approach to innovation, allowing the small business sector to foray into the area of development and innovation. Once a small business is successful in whichever endeavor chosen, the insurance industry swallows the entrepreneur and aligns with the oligopoly of insurance partners to thwart any competitive pressure. Once consumed the swallowed business becomes part of the lethargic industry. For this reason alone, the insurance industry should not foray into National Programs, but leave the development of any plan to the entrepreneurs who can think their way through the issues. In essence, if health care was to be a "truly" National Program, the first element to be covered "should be" prescription drugs, as they are the largest component of spending, in excess of Doctors fees! They are also the first line of defense in keeping people out of health care facilities and yes, is some selective cases the reason they access the health care system.

    Jack Kennedy
    Lifebridge