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Letter: The time for national pharmacare is now

The provincial government is proposing changes to regulations that would allow beneficiaries of the New Brunswick Prescription Drug Program to be reimbursed for prescriptions filled out of the province.
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Re: Hassan Yussuff, President, Canadian Labour Congress, “Canada, seize the moment to get pharmacare right,” Sept. 1, 2018

I fully support Hassan Yussuff and the CLC’s call for a national, universal pharmacare program. Rather than have 14 federal, provincial and territorial government drug plans, and various private drug insurance plans, I believe it is economically wise to have one national pharmacare program.

Unfortunately, though, Canada is the only nation that has a national universal Medicare program that — with the exception of Inpatient Hospital Care — has no universal drug coverage.

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A push for pharmacare in Newfoundland and Labrador

I find it shocking that one in 10 Canadians have no private or public drug coverage whatsoever. Yussuff said: “They are among the millions of people in Canada falling through the cracks of the current patchwork system of private prescription coverage with only limited public support.” And, for those who either have partial or full public drug coverage, it is largely based on age, disability, income, and certain segments of society (ie. Indigenous peoples, veterans, RCMP, Canadian military personnel and others). As for public and private-sector workers, employers, unions and staff are faced with the ever increasing private insurance premiums while other workers lack drug benefits. And, for those Canadians and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have the good fortune of having public or private drug coverage, one is faced with co-pays (Read the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Plan’s Access Plan”) or deductibles or in the case of our province’s seniors’ 65+ drug plan, dispensing fees, and in the case of other provinces, like Quebec & Alberta, for example, premiums.

Unlike MCP, the NLPDP, in most cases, does not provide out of province coverage. In my opinion, a national pharmacare plan should be similar to our Canadian medicare program in that all Canadians should have coverage no matter where you live or work or travel in Canada.

All Canadians and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should ask their MPs, MHAs, premiers, political party leaders, and our federal and provincial ministers of Health where they stand?

I also encourage all pharmacare advocates that who haven’t done so already, make submissions to the federal government’s advisory council on the Implementation of national pharmacare and the federal and provincial governments’ Poverty Reduction Strategy.

In closing, Yussuff is absolutely correct when he states: “Why should you or someone you love be forced to skip doses, go into debt, or jeopardize their health because their prescriptions are too costly?

“Failure to take medication as prescribed can greatly reduce health outcomes and put lives at risk. It also adds strain and cost to a health-care system that is already overburdened. Canada’s current patchwork system means different coverage in every province and territory, while everyone overpays for their prescriptions and pharmaceutical companies make a killing. Private insurance companies benefit by charging employers, unions and employees to administer private drug insurance plans. … Imagine how much more efficient health care could be if people had coverage for the medications they need. Common conditions like asthma could be better controlled, and people with chronic and complicated conditions wouldn’t be financially burdened. They would have fewer visits to emergency rooms and doctors’ offices, and they would never have to choose between medication and groceries. Quality of life would increase significantly.”

Edward Sawdon

Mount Pearl

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