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LETTER: Achieving pharmacare for all

Universal pharmacare might bring some financial relief to Canadians, particularly for the working poor.
Universal pharmacare might bring some financial relief to Canadians, particularly for people with low incomes. — 123RF Stock photo

In my most recent pharmacare letter, “The time for a national pharmacare program is now (The Telegram, April 24th, 2020), I stated: “With thousands of Canadians and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians being temporarily or permanently unemployed, and almost a million Canadians filing for employment insurance benefits, it is not too hard to imagine that many unemployed people will be cut off from their previous private drug coverage, and having to worry about paying for their medically prescribed medications.

“While we are blessed to have a universally accessible public medicare system that provides most health-care coverage to people regardless of their socioeconomic status or income levels, the same can’t be said about outpatient drug coverage....”

Being a diverse coalition of health-care professionals, seniors, unions, patients, community, faith-based, non-profit disability-related and anti-poverty organizations, academics and so on, the Canadian Health Coalition agrees.

The coalition posted a statement on its website, www.healthcoalition.ca, saying:

“Canada needs universal, public pharmacare now more than ever. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 20 per cent of Canadian households were struggling to pay for their medication. The mass layoffs triggered by the pandemic have now left millions of more people without work-based drug plans,”

“Last fall, over 175 national and provincial/territorial organizations signed a joint statement calling on the federal government to implement a universal, public pharmacare program based on the report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare led by Dr. Eric Hoskins. Given the current crisis, the government must speed up the implementation of the council’s recommendations.

Recent studies have shown that there is overwhelming support, actually just over 90 per cent support for all Canadians to have equal access to our medications and for a national universal public drug program.

“As an emergency first step towards universal pharmacare, we’re calling on the federal government to immediately implement phase 1 of the council’s report by providing public coverage for essential medicines for everyone in Canada. The government must also commit to implementing phase 2 by adopting a full, comprehensive public pharmacare program within its current mandate.

“Canadians are counting on the government to help them get through this crisis. Pharmacare must be part of the government’s COVID-related supports. This urgently needed program will help keep people healthy and out of the hospital, and will help ease the financial burden on households. Universal, public pharmacare will save money and lives.”

Since my April 24the letter, I have received positive feedback from various federal and provincial parliamentarians, especially P.E.I. Green MLA Karla Bernard (Charlottetown-Victoria Park); N.L. Liberal MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh (Placentia-St. Mary’s); federal NDP MP Jack Harris (St. John’s East); Nova Scotia PC Opposition Leader and MLA Tim Houston’s office (Pictou East) and Manitoba NDP Opposition Leader and MLA Wab Kinew, (Fort Rouge, Man.), amongst others.

Before I finish my letter, I have an important question to ask our provincial political leaders, outgoing Liberal Premier Dwight Ball, Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie, NDP Leader Alison Coffin, as well as Health and Community Services Minister Dr. John Haggie, the two Liberal leadership candidates John Abbott and Dr. Andrew Furey, and all our federal and provincial MPs and MHAs: should pharmacare be part of our COVID-19 related supports?

Recent studies have shown that there is overwhelming support, actually just over 90 per cent support for all Canadians to have equal access to our medications and for a national universal public drug program. My fellow Canadians, we need a pharmacare plan for all.

Edward Sawdon

St. John’s

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