NDP-Liberal agreement provides “momentum” for pharmacare, says CLC
By Pat Van Horne, USW member of the CHC Board of Directors
The President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) says that the confidence-and-supply agreement struck between the Liberals and the NDP is historic, and provides momentum to finally more forward on pharmacare.
CLC President Bea Bruske told The Hill Times newspaper, “the parties have talked about this for a long period of time…but now putting it on the table as part of this kind of an agreement makes it feel like it’s within reach. We are going to be pushing to make sure it actually gets done.”
Bruske said implementation of pharmacare is “first out of the gate” in terms of priorities for the CLC and its affiliated unions. The CLC is a member of the Canadian Health Coalition. She said that many Canadian workers are in the position of trying to stretch their medication supply because they don’t have enough money to refill their prescriptions on time, and many face the choice of buying medications or affording groceries.
“If they’re lucky enough to have a benefit plan that covers prescription drugs, it doesn’t necessarily cover all types of prescriptions, [or] it doesn’t necessarily cover the amount of prescriptions individuals have to take.”
Pharmacare can also help save money in the health care system, because Canadians are less likely to need repeat visits to the doctor’s office or trips to the ER when they can more easily access their prescription medication, Bruske added.
The Hill Times article also reports that some government relations consultants believe the NDP-Liberal agreement has opened the door for advocacy related to health care and long-term projects in advance of the 2022 federal budget.
According to Summa Strategies consultant Daniel Perry, “If you’re [in] long-term care, pharmacare or the dentistry industry, this is your time to have your issue heard and have it be one of the pillars this government moves on in budget 2022.”
The agreement, announced on March 22, calls on the NDP and Liberals to work together until 2025 on seven key policy areas, including health, housing affordability, and action on climate change. Health care priorities include a promise to pass a Canada Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023, and to launch a dental care program for low-income Canadians.
The 2022 federal budget will be released on April 7. Implementing a national pharmacare program was a Liberal campaign promise in 2019. However, the party’s 2021 election platform did not include a specific commitment toward implementation.
Former Ontario Health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins led a Liberal-appointed advisory council in 2018, whose final report was released in June 2019. It recommended the federal government opt for a “single-payer” system, which would move all Canadians onto one national public drug plan to replace the “mixed-payer” model, where drug coverage is available through a patchwork of existing private insurance plans and public plans.