Prescription drugs in Canada—target those who need help

Provinces already employ various programs to assist vulnerable populations with medication costs.

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.

How to make prescription medicines less available: A national pharmacare plan

There has been much discussion in the past 10 years about whether Canada needs a national Pharmacare plan. While the idea might appeal to some, the plan is driven by ideology as opposed to common sense.

Undoubtedly, it is clear that reform of provincial drug plans is necessary. However a national government plan is a step in the wrong direction and will only exacerbate the current situation where leaves millions of Canadians don’t have access to the medicines they need.

Drugs not the culprit in health costs: Research shows that medicare's financial problems aren't caused by what we buy

B.C. doctors have called on the province to curb spending on prescription drugs. The docs say annual spending increases are unsustainable. The Health Minister has toyed with imposing a cap on public drug budgets. But these folks have their facts seriously wrong.

Why focus only on drug budgets? What about other types of health spending, like the money spent on physicians and hospitals?

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