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Letter: National pharmacare would fill the gaps in the system

"Many people must pay out of pocket, or do without medication they need," a letter-writer writes. — SaltWire file photo

I wrote regarding Yvonne Earle’s letter, “A better way to cut health-care costs,” The Telegram, Jan. 26.

Did you know Canada remains the only country in the world with a public health-care system that does not cover the cost of prescription medications? Canadians remain with a fragmented system with inequitable drug coverage.

Medication is an essential component of a full range of treatment for some individuals living with physical and mental illness and disabilities.

While medication costs are covered for people in hospital, prescription costs outside of hospital are only publicly covered if an individual is eligible for coverage under the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program (NLPDP).

Some people have coverage through employer-provided private insurance and some people have purchased their own insurance.

However, private health insurance plans vary in terms of coverage and while certain medications and services are covered under one plan, they may not be covered under another. Many people must pay out of pocket, or do without medication they need.

When it comes to the issue of universal pharmacare in Canada, I have noticed some progress towards a more accessible, affordable pharmacare program on the provincial level, but not much on the national level.

Provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador have either improved or expanded their drug coverage to include more people who otherwise will be without. However, N.L. recently cut funding for medically prescribed over-the-counter drugs. And, as Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour president Mary Shortall has indicated, “one in three, or 78,000” Newfoundland workers don’t have drug coverage. No resident should be left uninsured and left behind.

Unfortunately, the federal government hasn’t committed itself to this important Canadian health-care initiative.

Right now, one in five Canadians is “underinsured” for high drug costs, and 3.5 million Canadians are without prescription drug coverage.

I agree with Shortall and she’s made some excellent points: “Over 90 per cent of both citizens and employers believe a universal prescription drug plan is important to Canadian heath-care coverage… a single-payer universal prescription drug program could save Canadians approximately $7.3 billion a year based on an additional $1 billion in public sector spending.”

When we talk about a national pharmacare program, we talk about inclusion, preventive medicine, wellness, poverty reduction, quality of life and the promotion of independent living.

Edward Sawdon
St. John’s

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