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Questions remain over what Liberal-NDP pharmacare deal will mean for British Columbians

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The federal Liberals and NDP have agreed to a national pharmacare deal – highlighted by free diabetes medication and birth control.

As for what this means for people in B.C., it’s unclear, with similar coverage already available.

But the stakes are high for people with diabetes in particular.

CTV News spoke with a Vancouver Island man Friday who shared that his out-of-pocket costs range between $800 and $900 each month.

Marc Fournier is hopeful this pharmacare deal will mean more coverage, as opposed to the feds covering what’s already covered in B.C.

“If the provincial governments are cruel enough to see it as – ‘we don’t have to cover any diabetic stuff’ – then it’s not going to be good for us,” Fournier told CTV News on Friday. “Because the federal government is not going to cover a massive amount of stuff, at least to start off with. There’s only so much money to go around.”

Fournier said he can manage the situation as he makes decent money, but points out in his role as a consultant he has no type of job-related coverage, and there are others like him.

The deal will cover all insulin for those dealing with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, according to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who has labelled the agreement historic.

“For the one-in-four Canadians that cannot afford their medication, skips their pills, who doesn’t even fill out a prescription because it’s too costly, we wanted to give them some hope,” Singh said on Friday.

And while time will tell what the full deal looks like, word that Ozempic and similar diabetes drugs won’t be included is coming as a disappointment to some experts in the field, even though it is currently covered by the B.C. NDP government for some people with Type 2 diabetes.

“For it not to be covered is kind of mud in the eye for people with Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Tom Elliott, the medical director of BCDiabetes.

“It’s 101 years since insulin was discovered by Banting and Best in Toronto, and yes insulin is very important – it’s a lifesaving drug – but we’re 100 years further evolved and we’ve got other drugs that are super important for five to seven per cent of Canada’s population affected by Type 2 diabetes, so they should also be covered by Ozempic or equivalent drugs.”

Elliott stressed he was largely happy with word of the deal, but feels it can go further.

Then there’s the contraception part, with one expert saying federal involvement offers more certainty for people in B.C., even if much of what has been promised is already covered in the province.

“When it’s part of the federal government’s pharmacare plan and it’s ensconced in federal legislation, that means the plan introduced in B.C. for an initial three years is much more likely to be there for our children and grandchildren, as they come into the need in planning their families and setting their reproductive goals,” UBC Department of Family Practice professor Dr. Wendy Norman told CTV News on Friday.

Since the summer, Dr. Norman has met with federal Health Minister Mark Holland a number of times – advocating for the government to provide contraceptive coverage. She points out that beyond the control it gives people, it also saves governments money.

CTV News Vancouver requested an interview with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, but his ministry said he would hold off on comment until the agreement was announced.

In terms of the timing, legislation is expected to be introduced in the House of Commons next week.

But for those most affected by this, the specifics of what’s in there and what’s actually covered will have major implications for their physical – and financial – health.

With files from The Canadian Press 

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