Canada’s unions are proud that we’ve won health insurance coverage for many of our members. But we believe anyone with a health card should have coverage for the medicines they need. That’s why we’re working to win a universal prescription drug plan that covers everyone in Canada, regardless of their income, age or where they work or live.

In the 2018 federal budget, the government announced the creation of an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, which will be headed up by former Ontario health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins. The Advisory Council is tasked with developing a plan for the implementation of a national pharmacare system with the provinces, territories and key stakeholders.

The unfinished business of medicare

Today, the only place where all Canadians are covered is in the hospital. The federal government covers the cost of prescription drugs for members of the Armed Forces and the RCMP, veterans and Indigenous people.

The provinces and territories all provide different coverage. Most subsidize the cost of medications for vulnerable Canadians like those over 65 and recipients of social assistance and disability benefits. Many also provide catastrophic coverage for those with astronomical medical costs.

Almost 1 in 4 households reported that over the previous 12 months, they or someone in their household did not take their medicines as prescribed, if at all, because of the cost.

By the numbers

  • About one third of working Canadians don't have employer-funded prescription drug coverage.
  • The less you earn at work, the less likely you are to have prescription drug coverage.
  • Women and young workers are less likely to have the coverage they need.
  • Even those with drug plans are paying ever-increasing co-payments and deductibles.

Pharmacare makes economic sense

Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal health care program that doesn’t include a universal prescription drug plan. Our patchwork prescription drug system is inefficient and expensive. It has left Canadians with wildly varying prescription drug coverage and access. Many are paying different rates for the same medications.

We aren’t benefitting from the current system, but pharmaceutical and private insurance companies are. Pharmaceutical companies can charge higher prices for drugs because they sell to so many buyers. Private insurance companies benefit by charging employers, unions and employees to administer private drug insurance plans.

family with nurse

It’s time for Canada to catch up to our peers. It’s time to complete the unfinished business of our medicare system with a universal prescription drug plan that will save money through bulk purchasing power.

In New Zealand, where a public authority negotiates on behalf of the entire country, a year’s supply of the cholesterol-busting drug Lipitor costs just $15 a year, compared to $811 in Canada.

Pharmacare will save Canada billions of dollars

Two reports released in September 2017 demonstrate that a universal pharmacare plan will save Canada billions of dollars. The first, by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Canadian Doctors for Medicare, estimates pharmacare would mean almost $11 billion a year in savings for federal, provincial and territorial governments, the private sector and individual Canadians.

A second, more conservative report released by the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates savings of $4.2 billion a year for the federal government alone. It used Quebec’s model – the most expensive in Canada – in its calculations, and did not take into account savings for the provinces and territories.

Canadians say “YES” to pharmacare

An overwhelming majority – 91 percent – of Canadians believe our public health care system should include a universal prescription drug plan.

Several national health care commissions have recommended the same, along with the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Canadian Health Coalition, Council of Canadians and the Canadian Labour Congress.

We need the federal government to commit to the implementation of a national, publicly-administered universal prescription drug plan for every Canadian, in every province and territory.

Universal pharmacare is vital for the LGBTQ2SI community

Many members of LGBTQ2SI communities face homophobia and transphobia in today’s job market, often resulting in the lack of meaningful employment with comprehensive drug benefits.

LGBTQ2SI people can also face worse health outcomes than their straight and cisgender peers. This is compounded by homophobia and transphobia that can become a barrier to proper health care and negatively affect mental health.

Whether it’s HIV prevention treatment (PrEP), gender-affirming hormones, medication to treat anxiety and depression, to support reproductive and sexual health and fertility, to treat cancer, asthma or any other condition, too many people are left paying out of pocket, if they can access their medications at all. People with multiple and intersecting identities face even steeper challenges.

Access to health care, including medication, is a fundamental human right. For members of the LGBTQ2SI community, that means a universal, national pharmacare plan we can be proud of.