Did you know that Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that does not provide universal coverage for prescription drugs? Prescription drug coverage varies depending on which province you live in and from person to person. Here are some facts:
- About 20% of Canadians have inadequate drug coverage or no coverage at all.
- Almost 1 million Canadians had to cut their household spending on food and heat to pay for medication.
- One in five households reported a family member who had not taken a prescribed medication because of its cost.
Canada has been examining universal pharmacare for decades and five separate national commissions have recommended that medically necessary prescription drugs be included in Canada’s universal, public health insurance system. The most recent report, A Prescription for Canada: Achieving Pharmacare for All outlines how it can be achieved and financed, even suggesting universal pharmacare could reduce total annual prescription expenditures by $4.2 billion. It also went on to say that “removing out of pocket costs for the medications used to treat just three health problems—diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory conditions—would result in up to 220,000 fewer emergency room visits and 90,000 fewer hospital stays annually. This has the potential to save the health care system up to $1.2 billion a year—just for those three diseases.”
What’s also important is that it could benefit employers. Research from the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto concluded that private citizens and corporations could save more than $8 billion with universal pharmacare, with the average business owner who provides drug coverage saving over $750 annually per employee. For small businesses, many of which cannot afford drug benefits for their employees, pharmacare should make it easier to recruit and retain employees and maintain a healthy workforce.
It's no wonder that nine out of ten Canadians support the idea of a national pharmacare program with 77% saying it should be a high priority for government.
We’re pleased to see the federal government making a commitment to move on national pharmacare and we’ll be eagerly awaiting further details in the coming year.
- 1,300 experts in healthcare and public policy recommend that Canada implement a universal, comprehensive, public pharmacare system now. Read their open letter to the 43rd Parliament of Canada.
- In 2019, Health Canada published A Prescription for Canada: Achieving Pharmacare for All, the final report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare.
- Understanding the Impact of COVID-19: Addressing Structural Barriers that are Widening Inequities and Exacerbating Vulnerability uncovered stories of people living on low incomes skipping medications to pay for other expenses like food and utilities.
- On April 20 at 7 p.m., check out The Walrus Talks @home Pharmacare: Rethinking the current state of prescription drug coverage in Canada.