CUPE is happy to see a commitment to “national universal pharmacare” in the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to Patty Hajdu, Canada’s new Minister of Health. It’s important that the government specified the program should be “universal”, however, it’s disappointing that the government won’t commit to making pharmacare comprehensive, public or single-payer.
So, why does this matter?
- Pharmacare should be comprehensive. The Liberal “fill-in-the-gaps” proposal will only add more patches to our current system of 100 public and over 100,000 private plans. This approach won’t ensure all Canadians have full and equal access to drug coverage, and it won’t generate the dual benefit of decreasing drug prices and making life more affordable for Canadians.
- Pharmacare should be public. To be successful, pharmacare needs to serve the public interest, not private interests, first and foremost. Omitting the word “public” suggests the government is unwilling to take a leadership role in implementing this new program, in a way that wouldn’t rely on the private sector for its delivery. That’s how our inefficient and expensive system currently functions.
- Pharmacare should be single-payer. “Single-payer” just means that pharmacare should be fully publicly-funded, in the same way our universal health care covers doctors and hospital care. Single-payer also improves Canada’s leverage to significantly lower drug prices due to bulk purchasing.
Canada is the only developed country with universal health care that does not include coverage for prescription drugs, and as a result, millions of Canadians cannot afford their medication. Every year, one million Canadians cut spending on food and heat or go into crippling debt to pay for their medicine.
A strong and growing consensus says that a universal single-payer pharmacare system would be the best solution for Canada. Earlier this year, the government’s own report, led by Dr. Eric Hoskins, recommended universal, single-payer pharmacare, as did a unanimous recommendation by the House of Commons health committee in March 2018.
CUPE calls on the Trudeau government to implement a comprehensive, universal, public, single-payer pharmacare plan that ensures every Canadian can access this essential part of 21st century health care, regardless of their ability to pay.
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