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Council of Canadians at health ministers meeting in Vancouver

Outside ministers meeting

Council of Canadians health care campaigner Michael Butler is at the two-day federal-provincial-territorial health ministers meeting in Vancouver this week. The provincial and territorial health ministers met yesterday, had dinner with federal health minister Jane Philpott last night, and will meet with her again today. Among the two key issues being discussed are funding and pharmacare.


The Canadian Press reports, “The provinces and territories are mounting a united front to persuade the federal government to boost its share of health-care spending to at least 25 per cent of their costs. British Columbia Health Minister Terry Lake said he and his counterparts will make the request at a meeting on Thursday [Jan. 21] with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott.” The Vancouver Sun adds, “But how that money would be distributed remains in serious dispute, with some provinces arguing they should get more because they have larger elderly populations that eat up disproportionate resources.” The CBC further explains, “One contentious idea, led in part by B.C., is the idea that a province’s health-care funding from Ottawa be tied to demographics — so provinces with a larger proportion of seniors, like B.C., get more support. New Brunswick’s minister of health, Victor Boudreau, agreed that age was something that should be considered in the Canada Health Transfer.”

Unfortunately, CBC has also reported, “Philpott had said ahead of the meeting that she thought there was ‘a great appetite in not distracting ourselves too much about the financial conversations’...” And the Canadian Press notes, “Philpott has suggested she wants to focus on how to spend money on health care more efficiently.”

Butler says, “The federal government must provide stable and sufficient funding in order to meet the premiers’ request of reaching a minimum 25 per cent federal health funding by 2025. The provinces must also recognize that conditions need to be attached to the transfer in order to ensure that the Canada Health Act is no longer violated and ignored as it has been for over a decade.”

Micheal outside meeting


CBC reports, “The [provincial] ministers stopped short of discussing a national pharmacare program — something health advocates demonstrating outside the meetings were calling for — but did decide to formally create a working group looking at ‘fairness and equity and appropriateness of access to prescription drugs’, said Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s health minister. Hoskins said they’d build on the success of the provinces’ bulk-buying program, the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, which has saved money by negotiating large contracts with pharmaceutical companies”

The Canadian Press adds, “Earlier this week, Philpott said the federal government will join a provincial program that buys drugs in bulk to save money. The previous Conservative government had resisted calls to join the program.”

On this point, Butler comments, “A bulk-buying program for prescription drugs is not the same as universal coverage. There is an across-the-board agreement that universal pharmacare will improve the real health outcomes for Canadians and save as much as $9 to $11 billion annually in health care costs. Now is the time to get this right. The current patchwork system negatively affects the health of Canadians, with one in ten not able to afford their prescriptions. Canada has the dubious distinction of being the only OECD country with universal public health care that does not also have a pharmacare plan.”

Overall, the Council of Canadians is calling for:

  • a new Canada Health Accord for an adequate period of time (a ten year period or comparable length to the 2004-2014 Accord)

  • increased funding at a minimum of a 6 per cent increase per year (as with the previous Accord)

  • reaching a minimum 25 per cent federal share of health funding by 2025

  • conditional funding to uphold the Canada Health Act and an accountability framework to ensure funding reaches needed areas of the public health system

  • funding to support and strengthen the universal access to publicly funded and delivered medicare

  • a comprehensive national pharmacare program that is universal and provides first dollar coverage

  • pharmacare must cover the full cost of covered drugs without deductibles or co-pays, access must be based on a patient’s need and not their ability

  • public administration for the program ensuring appropriate use of drugs, public education and monitoring

  • an evidence-based national formulary drawing on the best clinical and economic facts. All drugs on a national formulary must be covered under the program

  • ‘carving out’ health care from harmful international trade deals and a creating mechanism addressing the impacts of negotiated deals

For more on this, please see Butler’s blog Prime Minister Trudeau it is time for federal leadership and real action on health care and our campaign web-page. You can also follow his tweets from Vancouver at @HealthMichael.

Photos: Yesterday, Butler took part in a demonstration outside the provincial-territorial health ministers meeting. CBC reports, “While provincial and territorial health ministers meet behind closed doors in Vancouver, advocates for public health care, including doctors and nurses, staged a demonstration to call for reform of a ‘neglected’ system.” Nearly twenty groups came together for the protest.