BC Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced the elimination of payments and deductibles for prescription drugs for lower-income families in the province.
Calling the move a “long overdue step forward,” he explained that 240,000 families will no longer have to decide between paying for medical needs or basic necessities such as food or shelter, reported CBC News.
Under a new three-year, $105-million program that took effect on January 1, families with net annual incomes of $30,000 or less will no longer have to pay a deductible for prescription drugs. Prior to the program’s implementation, families with net earnings between $15,000 and $30,000 would have to pay $300 to $600 in deductibles before they could get drug coverage assistance.
Changes to the province’s program have also meant reduced deductibles for households that fall within the $30,000-$45,000 income category. For low-income seniors and the province’s poorest households, with incomes of less than $14,000, certain payments have also been wiped out.
“Previously, even a family earning just over $11,000 annually was required to spend $200 on prescriptions before Pharmacare would begin picking up the tab,” reported CBC News.
According to data from the provincial health ministry, there is a correlation between low income levels, deductibles, and decreased drug spending. It suggests that families will give up filling their prescriptions because of cost considerations.
These have been the first changes made to Fair Pharmacare since 2003. Dix said that the changes signal that BC is engaged in the federal government’s move toward national pharmacare, but is not waiting for results.
“I think in terms of the future of any national pharmacare program, this shows the kind of steps we need to take to make sure that, at a time when everything is becoming less affordable, that people don't have to make choices ... between their health and other basic services,” he said in a news conference in Vancouver.
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