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Labour unions across Canada encourage premiers to embrace universal pharmacare

When the Canada Health Act was passed in 1984, the plan was for Ottawa to pay half of total health costs. This only reached a peak of 36 per cent in 1976-77, but is now down to about 21 per cent, writes Charles Shaver. - 123RF
123RF - Contributed
The president of the P.E.I. Federation of Labour is joining colleagues in other unions across Canada to encourage premiers to embrace universal pharmacare.
In fact, Canada’s unions want to see premiers embrace a public, single-payer, universal pharmacare program at the premier’s meeting in Saskatchewan this week.
“The evidence is clear — a public universal pharmacare program will provide equal access and coverage for all Canadians, reduce drug prices and save billions of dollars,’’ said Carl Pursey.
Presidents of federations of labour from across Canada were in Saskatoon to represent the country’s unionized workers at the Council of the Federation meeting.
“The only barrier between Canadians and universal pharmacare is political will,’’ Pursey said. “That’s why we are encouraging provincial premiers to work with the federal government to make a public universal pharmacare program a reality.’’
The Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare released its final report on June 12.
The council recommended a public, single-payer, universal pharmacare program modelled after the Canadian Medicare system.
“Canada is the only industrialized country with universal Medicare that does not have universal coverage for prescription medicines,’’ Pursey said. “A public universal pharmacare program modelled after Medicare will improve the lives of all Canadians.
“While ‘big pharma’ and the insurance industry are trying to undermine the advistory council’s report, we are working even harder on behalf of families across the country to make sure Canada’s premiers step up to the challenge of delivering universal pharmacare.’’
Two reports released in 2017 said a universal pharmacare plan will save the country 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 consider savings for the provinces and territories.
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