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Nurses point to the competitive advantage of pharmacare

In a compelling op-ed published today by the Globe and Mail (“Why Canada’s employers should back national pharmacare”), Doris Grinspun of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, points out there are major drawbacks to Premier Rob Ford’s decision to clawback full pharmacare coverage for youth under the age of 25 – including a markedly higher cost for employers.

“The result is that the government becomes the insurer of last resort. The decision is along the lines of the Quebec model, which obliges most employers to provide drug insurance to employees, with uninsured people relying on the province,” she writes.

She adds: “On the face of it, it may seem cheaper for governments to let employers do the heavy lifting and fill in coverage gaps for those who don’t have private drug insurance. However, research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the Quebec model is sobering. Compulsory drug insurance did increase the compliance rate on prescribing by lowering out-of-pocket costs, but Quebec compliance is worse than in countries that had lower out-of-pocket costs. And the per capita cost ($1,087 in 2014) was higher than in the rest of Canada ($912). The cost in comparable countries with universal public-health insurance that includes pharmacare was $629. Countries such as New Zealand ($369) and the Netherlands ($494) had even lower per capita costs.”

As the Council of Canadians has pointed out, Quebec pharmacare is expensive because it doesn’t do anything to address the high cost of prescription drugs. In contrast, a publicly-run single payer system would reduce administrative costs and give governments bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower costs.

The Council of Canadians has joined with nurses, doctors, unions and other allies across the country in support of a national pharmacare program.

As Grinspun points out: “Too often we see patients who become ill because they can’t afford their medications. This is why all countries with universal access to health care also have universal access to pharmacare.” This is what is happening everywhere but Canada.

She quotes the Council of Canadians’ research on the competitive advantage a national pharmacare plan: “It’s been estimated that Canadians could save $7.3-billion to $10.7-billion (42.8 per cent) a year under a national pharmacare system. The bulk of those savings would accrue to employers who currently pay for drug insurance as part of their employee health plans. Even if the government took back some of those savings via taxes to help cover the cost of pharmacare, the net effect would be a major competitive advantage for Canadian employers, much in the way medicare is. A 2017 estimate from the Council of Canadians puts the potential cost savings to employers at $1 per hour per worker, in addition to the $4 cost advantage they already enjoy due to medicare.”

Pharmacare would ensure that all Canadians have access to the medications they need and it would save money – it’s time to implement it!

Take action! Send a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and call on the government to implement a national pharmacare program.

Read more about Canada’s competitive advantage with pharmacare.