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Federal government expected to announce advisory council to create a national pharmacare program

In May 2017, Council of Canadians North Shore chapter activist Berta Gaulke delivered our pharmacare campaign materials to the office of Bill Casey, the Liberal MP who chairs the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health which has been studying options to implement a universal pharmacare program.

The Council of Canadians has been calling for the implementation of a universal pharmacare program in Canada for years.

Now CBC reports, “Former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins will chair a federal government advisory council with a goal of creating a national pharmacare plan. Hoskins announced his resignation as minister this afternoon without providing any details. A federal government source [says] the council’s mandate will be to ‘consult a wide range of stakeholders, provinces, territories, Indigenous groups and experts’ and then provide the government with options on how to proceed with a national pharmacare program.”

Furthermore, the Toronto Star notes, “Hoskins [is] a doctor who was the key architect of Ontario’s OHIP+ for free prescriptions for youth under 25.”

That article adds, “His federal appointment is to be announced in Tuesday’s federal budget [which is normally tabled in the late-afternoon].”

The CBC also notes, “The advisory council has until 2019 to complete its job.” The next federal election will take place on October 21, 2019. That leads to speculation that pharmacare could be a key plank in the Liberal re-election campaign next year.

The Toronto Star editorial board has written, “Various studies have pegged Canada-wide savings from national pharmacare at between $4 billion and $11 billion per year, depending on how the program is structured. That’s based on savings seen internationally. Canada is, in fact, the only country with a universal health care system that doesn’t also cover the cost of prescription medicine. Administration costs represent another burden. Every public and private drug plan operating in this country spends money on revenue collection, claims management and other bureaucratic functions. Savings from ending this duplication alone were valued at between $1 billion and $2 billion.”

The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report in September 2017 that found pharmacare could slash the overall price tag for drugs by more than $4 billion a year.

Earlier this month, a new study led by University of British Columbia professor Michael Law found that 730,000 people skimped on food and another 238,000 spent less on heating their home to pay for prescription drugs in 2016, and that more than 1.6 million people didn’t fill their prescription or skipped doses because they couldn’t pay for it.

To sign our petition demanding pharmacare, please click here.

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