Pharmacare: be careful what you wish for

National Pharmacare appears to be regarded by many as a panacea for the woes of the present hodgepodge of provincial drug plans, but some provinces seem to view it as an opportunity to alleviate the strain on their drug budgets.

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Drug Coverage for Low-Income Families

Modern medicines are essential for improving health outcomes, alleviating pain and suffering, increasing longevity, and reducing expenditures on other medical services. While there is merit to pursuing a policy that expands access to those in need, it should be recognized that several avenues exist between the current, decentralized approach in Canada, and the sort of government-run, universal program that proponents of the single-payer system propose.  Expansions in government insurance coverage are also not costless, and must be judged against coverage already provided by governments to lower income Canadians.

The two essays in this study seek to help inform the debate over drug insurance policy in Canada.

The first essay by Nadeem Esmail explains the drug insurance coverage already available to lower income Canadians. Specifically, in every province, those on social assistance receive coverage for drugs at very low or no cost to the patient or insured individual. And while qualifying income levels vary across Canada, lower-income Canadians have access to at least catastrophic insurance for prescription drugs.

In the second essay, Bacchus Barua examines how Switzerland and the Netherlands, two nations with high performing universal access health care systems, provide drug insurance coverage to their populations. Both nations provide more timely access to higher quality health care services at a similar or lower cost than Canada. Neither has opted to pursue a government-run insurance scheme; both provide universal pharmaceutical coverage as a fundamental component of universal health insurance coverage, which is provided through regulated, competing, private insurance companies.

Pharmacare is the wrong solution at the wrong time

Last week, to great fanfare and much media attention across the country, the Canadian Medical Association Journal announced the publication of a new study trumpeting the great benefits Canada would accrue by going ahead with national government funded pharmaceutical drug coverage.

BC government’s drug substitution plan caused $43 million in avoidable health care costs

TORONTO, ON-The BC government's PharmaCare policy requiring patients with acid-related diseases to use the cheapest brand name drugs cost the provincial treasury more money and likely affected the health of patients, concludes a new study co-authored by Brett Skinner, Fraser Institute director of Bio-Pharma, Health and Insurance Policy Research.

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This paper discusses differences between provincial drug plans with respect to breadth of coverage and cost sharing between patients and taxpayers, and introduces two new measurements to describe how provincial Pharmacare plans perform as insurers and how generous they are to their beneficiaries. Finally, we compare these measurements with provinces' spending on their prescription benefit plans and consider which provinces get most value for their taxpayers' money.

The Fairness of Fair Pharmacare

The newspapers and airwaves are filled with people fuming about Fair Pharmacare. There are three major complaints (other than the challenge of getting through to Pharmacare to register). Firstly, that Fair Pharmacare forces patients to pay more of their own money for prescriptions. Secondly, that the requirement to report your income is a violation of privacy. Thirdly, that it is inappropriate to use income from 2001 to determine benefits in 2003.

Fair Pharmacare is a Fair First Step

The provincial government has finally decided to cut back on one small area of health spending, by significantly increasing user fees for Pharmacare. Although many British Columbians are under the misapprehension that the Liberal government cut back health care spending, spending increased the day it took over from the NDP.
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