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P.E.I. unions advocate on Labour Day for universal drug program and reversing EI split zone

Union of Veterans Affairs Employees member Valerie Quinn, from left, serves up some hotdogs and corn to Demetra and Nabil Saroufim during a Labour Day picnic hosted at Joe Ghiz Memorial Park yesterday. While the barbecue was a fun family event, it also saw union leaders advocate for a universal pharmacare plan.
Union of Veterans Affairs Employees member Valerie Quinn, from left, serves up some hotdogs and corn to Demetra and Nabil Saroufim during a Labour Day picnic hosted at Joe Ghiz Memorial Park yesterday. While the barbecue was a fun family event, it also saw union leaders advocate for a universal pharmacare plan. - Katherine Hunt

There are millions of Canadians struggling to afford the medication they need.

And that number includes many Islanders, says P.E.I.’s union leaders.

A Labour Day picnic held at Joe Ghiz Memorial Park on Monday saw P.E.I. unions call on the federal government to address the issue by establishing a universal pharmacare plan.

P.E.I. Nurses Union president Mona O’Shea said there are some who do not buy their medication, skip dosages or cut dosages because of the high costs.

“We see time and time again people cutting their doses of medication because they need to buy groceries,” O’Shea said during the picnic, which was hosted by the P.E.I. Federation of Labour. “They’re skipping their medication doses because they don’t have enough money for their fuel and for their furnace oil.”

The call for universal pharmacare was made by unions across the country Monday. A universal plan would see the federal government buy medication in bulk and then distribute it throughout the provinces.

Someone with a prescription would then receive their medication either for free or through an affordable plan that is consistent across Canada.

“Make it free for everybody because the government could do it with their bulk buying,” said federation president Carl Pursey.

While most jobs across the country provide drug coverage in their healthcare plans, rates can vary greatly since those plans are not universal.

“Some people have to pay 20 per cent, some pay nothing. There’s a big difference in there and some (plans) only have access to certain drugs,” said Pursey.

O’Shea said she has seen and heard stories of Islanders struggling to make ends meet and afford medication.

“It is a challenge for some of our seniors who are on fixed incomes,” said O’Shea.

Another issue Pursey spoke on was a need to change the split employment insurance (EI) zone on P.E.I.

Pursey said it would be equal for all Islanders to reverse that split, which occurred in 2012 under the Stephen Harper government.

He said those living in rural areas may have a higher chance of being approved for a longer EI period than someone in the city, as it is presumed those in the city would have a better opportunity of finding employment.

“We need the one zone for P.E.I. because P.E.I. is basically one work area and people travel from one end of the Island to the other to work,” said Pursey. “You can have two people working at the same place (right now) and one can draw unemployment longer than the other based on where they live.”

Need to know
- About 26 percent of Atlantic Canadians don’t take their medications as prescribed because they can’t afford to.
- P.E.I.’s public spending covers less than half the cost of prescription medicine in the province.
- Of the 73,200 in the province working either full or part-time in P.E.I., an estimated one in three – 24,400 – don’t have health benefits.
- P.E.I.’s Seniors Drug Program covers residents over the age of 65. However, there are still two dispensing fees of $8.25 and $7.69 on needed prescriptions. The Generic Drug program is also available to seniors but requires out-of-pocket payments up to $19.95.
- The Family Health Benefit Drug Program, tailored for low-income families, doesn’t cover the cost of dispensing fees.

Source: Aplanforeveryone.ca

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