LETTER: In support of pharmacare

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The time for pharmacare is now! No fewer than nine committees have investigated the viability of a comprehensive, universal pharmacare program in Canada, including the Trudeau-appointed commission led by Dr. Eric Hoskins. All found there was widespread support across all stakeholders including social service and medical professionals, trade unions, business and political parties.

The Ontario Nurses Association has been advocating universal pharmacare for years.

In 2015, the NDP was the only party advocating universal pharmacare. But since then, the idea has also become a plank in the Green platform. Justin Trudeau also made unfulfilled promises in his 2019 campaign. Polls suggest that 90 per cent of Canadians support this program.

Who is against this pharmacare plan? The insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Canada is the only country with universal medicare that does not have universal pharmacare.

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Universal, comprehensive pharmacare is a social justice, health and economic issue.

The current system leaves millions vulnerable. Since the pandemic, one in four Canadians cannot afford to purchase the medications they require. One per cent chooses rent payments or food over meds. Now with one million people out of work due to the pandemic, the situation has been exacerbated. Of the three million who couldn’t afford their meds in the pandemic, many still had private insurance. A study made 10 years ago found then that six per cent of the population spent over $1,000 per year in non-reimbursable drugs. Seventeen per cent with some sort of coverage also spends over $1,000 in non-reimbursable drugs.

There are Canadians who are fully covered. They include the armed forces, those in hospital and those in prison. In Ontario that includes dependent children under 26.

Some are partially covered, such as seniors over 65, and those who qualify for disability payments. With more outpatient treatments and more health problems managed at home for severely ill patients, the medications once covered in hospital are no longer covered in the home, so as hospitals achieve savings, patients take them on.

When the Parliamentary budget officer costed out a universal pharmacare program it was discovered we can cover every single Canadian and still save over $4 billion annually on drugs alone. Bulk buying, streamlined delivery and reduced bureaucracy in determining who is eligible for drug coverage all save money. We can save $1 billion just by keeping people out of hospitals who are there now because they could not afford their medications.

Indeed, no one has batted an eye when COVID-19 testing, medications and vaccines were provided to Canadians across the country free of charge.

This month, Bill C-213: The Canada Pharmacare Act will be introduced as a private members’ bill in Parliament, with final reading on Feb. 24. Please sign petitions or write your MP to vote in favor of this Act

Wilhelmina Laurie

Varna

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