Health Coalition wants $3.5 billion in budget for pharmacare
The next few months will be make-or-break for public universal pharmacare, and the Canadian Health Coalition is pushing hard for national legislation and money to make it happen.
We kicked off the so-called budget cycle leading to Budget 2024 by putting pharmacare at the top of our demands delivered to the Commons Finance Committee (FINA), urging, “That the government passes the Canada Pharmacare Act by 2023 to provide free coverage for prescribed medicines, funded with $3.5 billion for essential medicines as recommended by the 2019 government-appointed Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare.”
On March 22, 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an agreement reached by the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party in Parliament, promising, “Continuing progress towards a universal national pharmacare program by passing a Canada Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023 and then tasking the National Drug Agency to develop a national formulary of essential medicines and bulk purchasing plan by the end of the agreement.”
If the government fails to deliver on its promise for legislation by the end of the year, the NDP could withhold its support for the minority Liberal government. This would force Prime Minister Trudeau to seek opposition party support vote-by-vote to pass essential legislation in the House of Commons.
The Liberal-NDP deal does not require budget measures, and the Canada Pharmacare Act legislation is an important step toward full pharmacare. But funding is essential to help the 1-in-5 Canadians who lack private insurance for prescription medicine, and the millions more with inadequate private coverage. That’s why the Canadian Health Coalition is advocating for Budget 2024 to provide funding to move forward with a truly public universal pharmacare program.
If accepted, the government would fulfill a key recommendation of the 2019 Final Report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, led by Dr. Eric Hoskins, which estimated that it will cost an additional $3.5 billion to launch national pharmacare starting with universal coverage for essential medicines.
Here are the coalition’s four recommendations.
Recommendation 1: That the government passes the Canada Pharmacare Act by 2023 to provide free coverage for prescribed medicines, funded with $3.5 billion for essential medicines as recommended by the 2019 government-appointed Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare.
Recommendation 2: That the government passes legislation for the Canadian Dental Care Plan in 2023 and transforms the benefit into a universal program for everyone in Canada by phasing out the eligibility requirement that annual family income must be less than $90,000.
Recommendation 3: That the government introduces and passes the Safe Long-Term Care Act by 2025, which must enforce mandatory national standards, which should include patients receiving at least 4 hours of daily direct care. Additionally, provide funding to promote publicly-owned, and non-profit long-term care facilities while phasing out for-profit investors.
Recommendation 4: That the government speaks out in favour of public health care strenuously and enforces the 5 principles and conditions of the Canada Health Act, beginning with funding more robust monitoring and sanctioning capacity by Health Canada to ensure Canadians are not faced with extra billing, user fees, and diminished accessibility to health care as provinces move to for-profit care providers.
Read the Canadian Health Coalition’s “Written Submission for the Pre-Budget Consultations in Advance of the Upcoming Federal Budget 2024,” submitted to the Commons Finance Committee (FINA) on August 4, 2023