The debate for a national pharmacare plan heated up last week after a British Columbia health economist said Canada could save more than $11 billion a year.
Health economist Steven Morgan, professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health, published an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which said Canadians might be willing to pay an extra $8 in taxes to save money in the long run.
Morgan worked with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, an organization representing Canadian nurses and nursing students.
The federation and the Canadian Health Coalition commissioned an EKOS survey in 2013, which showed that 78 per cent of Canadians were in support of a national pharamacare plan.
EKOS’s online survey selected more than 1,000 Canadians, who were aged 18 and older with plus or minus 3.1 per cent margin of error.
“The federal government is not paying attention to (a national pharmacare plan) because they would have to cough up money to start the program,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
She said the government should tune into the debate because Canadians want equal access to pharmacare.
“Yet another study has demonstrated the savings that we could all accrue by implementing a national pharmacare program,” wrote Ontario Health Ministry spokesman Shae Greenfield in an email.
“In the last 20 years, the cost of prescription drugs is higher than even the cost of physicians in this country,” Silas said.
Humber Students Federation president-elect, Ahmed Tahir, said Canada is one of the only countries with a national healthcare system that doesn’t have a pharmacare plan to complement it.
“If the federal government grants (a universal pharmacare plan), we will gladly step back and restructure our health plan for students,” Tahir said.
Tahir said that the union would not include medications if they were covered on the federal scale.
“(A national pharmacare plan) makes a lot of sense and I hope it happens,” said Tahir. “We wouldn’t charge students for drugs, but we would keep our other insurance plan.”
Tahir said HSF’s insurance coverage is flexible and will change if or when the government implements a national drug plan.
Silas said convincing drug companies would be difficult but that the government would have to negotiate with them.
“Ontarians should never be forced to choose between buying food and paying for medication,” wrote Greenfield. “National pharmacare is a missing link in our universal health care system, especially for Ontario’s working poor.”
A 2011 Statistics Canada report showed that between 9 per cent and over 12 per cent of Canadian live in poverty.
Greenfield wrote that sick Ontarians need access to affordable treatments without breaking the bank. He said that he campaigned with other politicians in hopes of building a pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance and that in his last meeting the federal, territorial and provincial government said that they would look into creating a national pharmacare plan.
Silas she said that it’s like “going to Costco,” where you make one payment and it would cover a person for the year.
She said all Canadians should have access to a national pharmacare plan and it should not be based on their annual income.
“The (health) economists of the world will need to bring to the government how we will cover it through our tax system,” Silas said.