April 18th, 2018

It’s Time for Universal Pharmacare in Canada

"Universal healthcare is essential when we talk about equality for all Canadians." – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh

What is universal pharmacare?

Universal pharmacare is a program designed to provide everyone with the essential prescription medications they need.

In Canada, this would mean everyone who has access to healthcare would also have access to essential medications prescribed by their doctor.

Why do we need universal pharmacare in Canada?

We need universal pharmacare in Canada because one in five Canadian families cannot afford their prescription medications because of their cost. This means Canadian families are forced to make difficult choices every month such as choosing between food, rent, or medication.

Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal healthcare system that does not currently cover essential prescription medications.

It doesn't have to be this way. New Democrats believe everyone who has access to healthcare in Canada should have access to pharmacare.

With a universal pharmacare program:

  • we can provide universal access to necessary medicines for all Canadians;
  • we can ensure a fair distribution of prescription drug costs;
  • we can provide safe and appropriate prescribing; and
  • we will be making a responsible fiscal choice by maximizing the health benefits per dollar spent.

With a universal pharmacare program in Canada, the federal government will become the primary price negotiator and purchaser of prescription medications on behalf of Canadians (as opposed to Canadians purchasing their prescriptions individually from suppliers at a set cost).

By using the purchasing power of a single payer for prescription medications, we can take advantage of lower prices for pharmaceuticals – this is how similar pharmacare systems in other countries achieve huge cost savings.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers who price fairly and competitively will be rewarded because their prescription medications might be selected to cover 100% of the population. The savings for Canadians can be significant.

Let’s look at one example using the drug Lipitor. In Canada, one year’s supply of the brand-name pharmaceutical costs at least $811 whereas in New Zealand, where the public authority negotiates the price on behalf of all New Zealanders, a one year supply of the brand-name pharmaceutical costs only $15. These savings are also seen for generic versions of prescription medications.

Don't we already have pharmacare coverage for some Canadians?

Currently, there are over 100 patchwork pharmacare programs in Canada run by the provinces and by the federal government. If we combine all these into one program, we could save Canadians money and be more efficient in delivering essential medications to those who need it most.

How much will universal pharmacare save Canadians?

Roughly $28.5 billion was spent on prescription drugs in Canada in 2015. The cost of prescription medications is continuing to increase. It is estimated a universal pharmacare program would cost the federal government between $11 and $19.3 billion.

A universal pharmacare program would save Canadians around $4.2 billion every year.

By implementing a universal pharmacare program, Canadians will pay less out-of-pocket for essential prescription medications depending on eligibility for co-payment exemptions. It is estimated Canadians will save around 90% on average on out-of-pocket spending.

A universal pharmacare program would mean Canadians will spend less than they are currently spending on essential prescription medications and will also ensure better coverage across Canada.

How will we pay for this plan?

New Democrats understand that by closing tax loopholes and building a fairer tax system we could improve our social services. The super-rich in Canada now avoid paying their fair share in taxes by using tax loopholes and stashing their money in offshore tax havens. We want to end this.

By closing some of the tax loopholes, we could recover about $15 billion every year in lost tax revenues. We would use this lost tax revenue to finance a universal pharmacare program that would benefit all Canadians.

I already have prescription drug coverage at work. Why should I support universal pharmacare?

Canadians care about their friends, neighbours, and communities. This is part of what makes our country so great – we care about each other and not only ourselves.

While some of us might be lucky enough to have prescription drug coverage through our employers, many Canadians do not.

Around 700,000 people in Canada have no prescription drug coverage at all – many of these people work lower-paid jobs or have precarious employment. In addition to this, around 3.6 million people in Canada have some prescription drug coverage but it is not enough to allow them to afford all the essential medications they need.

When Canadians go without essential medications every month because of their cost, we end up putting more strain on our healthcare system which costs us all more in the end.

We can and we must do better. Canadians deserve better.

It’s time for universal pharmacare in Canada.

Do you support our plan? Donate now and join our movement.