Morneau says not all Canadians will have free pharmacare

The finance minister is suggesting the 'fiscally responsible' plan won't cover drugs for all

Morneau says not all Canadians will have free pharmacare

A new national pharmacare program in the works will be “fiscally responsible” and not provide blanket coverage to all Canadians, according to Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa, Morneau said the program will be designed to fill gaps in prescription-drug coverage in existing plans. He said the programs have left behind many Canadians, including those who are self-employed, reported CBC News.

“We need a strategy to deal with the fact not everyone has access, and we need to do it in a way that's responsible, that deals with the gaps, but doesn't throw out the system that we currently have,” he said.

The national pharmacare plan will proceed following recommendations from a council to be chaired by Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s former Liberal health minister. The council will consult with stakeholders prior to making its recommendations to government.

Morneau said the committee will need time to balance different considerations, including the needs of Canada’s workforce and the dramatic increases in pharmaceutical costs over the past two decades.

He also said the use of income to assume need may require a second look. “Sometimes those pharmaceuticals are so expensive that even ... people that are above the middle income band will find themselves in a very difficult situation,” he said in an interview with CBC News.

The OHIP+ program in Ontario, which offers free medication to those aged 24 and under that are covered under OHIP is projected to cost about $450 million annually.  The budget did not include a cost estimate for a national pharmacare program, which prompted NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to call it a “fantasy.”

Singh slammed the program that falls short of universal coverage, which he said is needed for a “more healthy and vibrant society.” The Canadian Health Coalition, a group representing health advocates across Canada, was similarly critical.

“Millions of Canadians have been waiting decades for life-saving medications and were ecstatic by the Liberals announcement yesterday,” said the CHC’s Interim National Director for Policy and Advocacy in a statement. “Now today they clarify that the Liberals want only partial drug coverage — not for everyone.”

In a news release, the Canadian Pharmacists Association said it was “encouraged” at the federal government’s willingness to explore options to improve access to critical drugs.

Weighing in on the issue, CLHIA President and CEO Stephen Frank told CBC News that gaps have to be closed, but said the government must proceed with “smart reforms” to ensure public dollars go where the problems are.


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