Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Prescription for a Good Debate

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Prescription for a Good Debate

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Prescription for a good debate

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published May 7:

There are many ways in which Canadians describe the concept of a national pharmacare plan:

A dream. A national aspiration. A fool's errand. A cost-prohibitive boondoggle. The subject of numerous written-but-never-implemented reports and recommendations. The elusive final piece of a true universal health-care plan.

One way in which a framework for prescription-drug coverage for Canadians has seldom been described is this: a realistic possibility.

The seemingly endless discussion about a national pharmacare plan took at least a small step toward real-world consideration last month with the release of a report by a parliamentary committee that spent two years studying the issue.

Its recommendations, 18 in all, amount to an endorsement of an initiative that would see Canada replace its various provincial drug plans and private-insurance frameworks with a national single-payer pharmacare system.

"This is Step 1," said Liberal MP Bill Casey, the committee's chairman.

"This answers the question -- and I believe the testimony was very convincing -- that a national pharmacare program will give us better health care at a lower cost."

According to a 2017 report by the parliamentary budget officer, a national pharmacare program could save about $4.2 billion annually -- provided that federal bulk-buying power could force drug makers to drop prices by 25 per cent, that generic drugs would be used more widely and that limits would be placed on the number of different drugs covered.

And then, of course, there still would remain the question of who would ultimately pay for a national pharmacare plan -- and how. As Conservative health critic (and committee member) Marilyn Gladu noted, "People want this service, (but) they're unwilling to have their taxes increased in order to pay for it. …

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