Trudeau's pharmacare plan slammed by insurers, commerce bodies

CLHIA and Canadian Chamber of Commerce say plan would leave many worse off

Trudeau's pharmacare plan slammed by insurers, commerce bodies
Steve Randall

The Trudeau government’s plan to shake up how Canadians get essential pharmaceuticals has been slammed by two organizations that say it would leave many worse off.

The federal government introduced legislation this week that sets out foundational principles of a first phase of national universal pharmacare in Canada which would provide universal, single-payer coverage for a number of contraception and diabetes medications. Eventually other medicines could be included as directed by the newly established Canadian Drug Agency.

But the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says that the plan will not meet the demand for improved drug coverage, which 27 million Canadians receive through their workplace plans.

Stephen Frank, president and CEO of the CLHIA said that the government’s plan will cost Canadians billions of dollars for people who already have coverage and may put workplace plans at risk.

“Private insurance plans offer coverage for nearly twice as many drugs as even the best public plan. Canadians don't want the federal government picking and choosing which drugs get covered and which don't,” he said. “We believe the right approach is to support existing benefit plans that are working well, and to target federal investment towards those who don't have coverage today, not those who already do."

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has also criticized the plan, calling it “concerning.”

A statement from senior vice president Kathy Megyery says that “a single-payer system is a complicated and costly solution, which has been estimated to cost up to $38.9 billion within three years.”

“Provinces will be concerned about new obligations they may not want,” she added. “Ultimately, single payer pharmacare is a risk our country can’t afford right now and would only serve to offer less coverage at higher costs to Canadians.”

Alberta and Ontario have already said they will opt out of a national program and seek federal government funding for their own programs that is equivalent to the per-capita cost of the nationwide scheme.