Quebec government move to bring pharmacy fees in line

by David Keelaghan14 Nov 2016

With the issue of spiralling drug costs dominating discourse when it comes to the life and health insurance industry here in Canada, the Quebec government has moved to curb price rises in the province.

Last week, Health and Social Services Minister Gaétan Barrette tabled amendments to Bill 92 in Quebec's National Assembly. Bill 92 was passed this past April to amend various acts, including the Health Insurance Act, the Hospital Insurance Act and the Act respecting prescription drug insurance.

Barrette now hopes to improve on the provisions of Bill 92, making medications more affordable for the public. In doing so, he has identified increasing transparency when it comes to pharmacy fees as a key target. Under the proposed amendments, pharmacists will have to disclose their fees on receipts for prescription drugs.

Receipts will clearly set out the pharmacist's professional fees for each service performed, the price paid by the public plan for each drug or service being provided, as well as the wholesaler's margin if any.

The move was welcomed by Lyne Duhaime, president of ACCAP-Quebec, the provincial branch of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association.

"On behalf of Quebec employees who have private drug insurance -- which represents 60% of the province's population -- and their employers, life and health insurers commend Minister Barette's proposal to require more transparency from pharmacists, as is already done elsewhere in the country,” said Duhaime.

ACCAP-Quebec has made it a priority in recent months to highlight the wide disparity between the professional fees charged by pharmacists to workers insured by private plans as opposed to those insured under the public plan.

Duhaime revealed that pharmacists' professional fees have been found to be double, or even triple those charged to the public plan for exactly the same drug or service.

This meant employees and employers could end up paying close to $400 million more in pharmacists' professional fees each year, making reform all the more pressing.

A recent survey showed that 80% of Quebec residents did not know that pharmacists charge professional fees.

"Once this information becomes available, consumers will be able to make wiser choices, which will contribute to containing the costs of group insurance plans. Insurers also support all other measures that could reduce the cost of drugs," added Duhaime.

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