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Canada Budget 2019: Keep pharmacare on the table

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The Canadian government brought down the final budget of this mandate. As expected in an election year, it has a little bit for almost everyone. And, perhaps naively, I like it.

There is support for people with illnesses and people with permanent disabilities. There is a little something for couples unable to conceive a child and people wanting to buy their first home. These are all good things. The government has devoted time and funding to support eating right and added supports in several areas that will mitigate stress for families in crisis. These are the things we are encouraging employers to do for a healthy, engaged workforce, so it should be good for a nation too.

This budget appeals to me as a compassionate person (ok, maybe an extremely compassionate person). It closes some of the gaps that affect the most vulnerable in our society. It has measures to prepare the young for the future and to provide strength and dignity for the elderly.

Addressing pharmacare

Of course the gap that is of the biggest interest to me could be filled by a strong national pharmacare program. Our current patchwork of provincial drug plans means Canadians do not all have equal access to treatment and that we pay some of the highest drug prices in the world. Did the budget give me a strong program to address this?

No. It did give a framework that would move Canada along a path to a national drug formulary and one drug pricing structure. It did suggest that, sometime in the future, all Canadians with rare diseases would have equal access to life saving drugs. If a national pharmacare plan is developed in the right way, no Canadian will have to choose between filling a prescription and feeding their family, and no employer plan will be asked to cover a drug with a price tag of $500,000 per year.

Keep it non-partisan

The future will be interesting as we move into this election campaign and beyond. Pharmacare should not be a partisan issue. People should not have to move away from family and friends when a critical illness means they could have government-sponsored drug coverage in another province far from home.

It is my hope that national pharmacare will stay on the table no matter which party is governing. There are many stakeholders in this, not the least of which are the insurance companies who have attached their profits directly to the cost of drugs.

I am confident this will be transparent to those entrusted to negotiate the best price for drugs and to make a plan for the high cost “orphan” drugs that could move them out of employer plans and away from insurers.

Hang on, friends, the next few months will be a wild ride. And I am going to do it in my newly subsidized electric car.

Stay Healthy!

Lizann

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