The president of the Canadian Labour Congress is throwing his support behind national pharmacare, saying that too many people are forced to face a choice between skipping doses of prescriptions and financial hardship.
“The lack of universal pharmacare in Canada can impact anyone, and it’s most likely to affect us in our most desperate time of need,” wrote Hassan Yussuff in a piece for The Province.
Yussuff shared the story of one 61-year-old woman whose $2,000 drug coverage only lasts her until Thanksgiving each year, thus forcing her to “juggle” her prescriptions and decide which ailment she can treat until her coverage resets. Another person has to pay $100 out-of-pocket for asthma inhalers monthly; if he misses a dose, he could be hospitalized “at far greater expense to our healthcare system.
“Canada’s current patchwork system means different coverage in every province and territory,” he said. Because everyone overpays for their prescriptions, he argued, drug firms make a killing; private insurance companies, meanwhile, also benefit from fees to employers, unions, and employees that administer private drug insurance plans.
There have been important steps toward a national pharmacare system, notably the formation of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health’s recommendation of a single-payer, universal prescription drug program for Canada. But those were met by calls from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to just “fill in the gaps” for people without coverage.
Yussuff argued against those calls, saying that they ignore the issues of co-payments, deductibles, and failures in coverage because of plan restrictions. Preventing the government from buying medications in bulk, he added, would still leave a problem of inflated prices for prescription medication.
“Universal pharmacare would mean that everyone with a health card in Canada would have coverage for the prescriptions they need and a single-payer system would deliver big savings,” he said. “Public opinion overwhelmingly supports universal pharmacare, so let’s get it right.”
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