Without a universal prescription drug plan, coverage in Canada vastly differs depending on where you live. In Canada’s North, out-of-pocket expenses for prescription medications pose even more of a constraint because living expenses such as food, transportation, and rent are so much higher than in other provinces.
- The territories are the only place in Canada where public spending accounts for more than half the cost of prescription medicine (62.8 percent in the Yukon, 65.1 percent in the Northwest Territories and 64.9 percent in Nunavut).
- Prescription drug coverage in the territories is provided through a combination of federal, territorial and private drug plans. Public programs cover prescription drug costs – including dispensing fees and deductibles – for First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
- Northern residents endure high rates of chronic diseases, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, serious illnesses requiring specialized treatments.
- While most Nunavut Inuit receive coverage for drugs under the federal Non-Insured Health Benefits Program, others still end up paying more for the medication they need simply because they live in the North. This leaves certain prescription costs out of reach for many Nunavut citizens.
- In the Yukon, both the Children’s Drug Program and the Chronic Disease Program require a deductible (from $250-$500). Even charges as low as $2 have been found to be a barrier to taking medication as prescribed.
- According to a 2015 Wellesley Institute Report, an estimated one third of working Canadians do not receive employer provided health benefits. That means that in the territories, almost 18,000 working Canadians don’t have access to prescription drug coverage.
This patchwork coverage leaves many Northerners without access to the medication they need, either because they don’t have a prescription drug plan or have plans that don’t cover the cost.
Everyone should have equal access to the prescription drugs they need regardless of where they live. It’s time for a universal prescription drug plan.