B.C. health minister on board with plans to make prescription drugs cheaper
Published Wednesday, June 12, 2019 4:45PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 12, 2019 7:14PM PDT
With the cost of medications on the rise, B.C.’s health minister says he’s ready and willing to work with “anybody” to make them cheaper, and that includes the federal government as a new report recommends a universal health-care plan.
In Ottawa Wednesday an expert panel recommended a national pharmacare plan. The authors recommended a universal, single-payer plan that would, among other things, limit how much Canadians pay for prescription drugs.
The proposal is for Canadians to pay $2 per prescription for essential medicines, $5 for all others covered by the plan to a maximum of $100 a year per household. Fees for those who struggle with prescriptions costs would be waived.
“Almost one million Canadians report cutting spending on food or heat to pay for medications,” said Pharmacare Advisory Council Chair Dr. Eric Hoskins.
Not only would it help those showing up at pharmacies to pay for their meds, UBC professor Steve Morgan says countries that have adopted a similar approach – that is to negotiate as a country for prescription drug prices – have been able to reduce costs while covering a good range of drugs. That includes smaller countries.
“New Zealand's amazing they managed to leverage just about 4.5 million people in their population for some of the best prescription drug prices in the world,” said Morgan, who is with the School of Population and Public Health.
The biggest stumbling block may well be if provinces – who have jurisdiction in this matter – will sign on. Transforming the pharmacare and creating a national program won’t come cheap. B.C.’s health minister is hopeful Ottawa will recognize it has a large role to play, especially financially.
“This has been called for a long, long time,” said Adrian Dix.
Dix pointed out currently Ottawa is a small player in the pharmacare world. He said the feds currently contribute about $800 million across the country while the provinces cough up $13 billion dollars.
The federal health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says she doesn’t expect provinces to pay for the program, but did say she expected not all provinces and territories will be at the table once. She confirmed the Liberals do support a national plan but didn’t say whether or not the report’s recommendations would be implemented.
With a federal election this fall, the topic of a universal healthcare plan could become a major topic of debate.