The UK’s John Abraham on a panel with Carleton University’s Marc Andre Gagnon.
10 things we learned from last week’s Ottawa conference on drug coverage hosted by the Canadian Health Coalition and Carleton University:
1. The University of British Columbia’s Steven Morgan noted that if Canada were to adopt the UK’s public drug plan without any changes, it would “be enough to pay for universal Pharmacare in Canada at current rates. We would not have to increase taxes.” Carleton University’s Marc Andre Gagnon says Canada could save $10.7 billion on pharmaceutical costs with a universal drug plan. The question is not can we afford universal drug coverage, but can we afford not to?
2. We’ve reported in several posts on how Canada and the U.S. are outliers when it comes to a universal drug plan for our citizens. This has been the case for a very long time. The international panel noted many countries adopted universal access to prescriptions shortly after World War II. France adopted its social insurance system in 1945 while Britain was a few years behind in starting the National Health System in 1948, quickly adding prescriptions to it in 1952. More recent Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland abolished all prescription charges, whereas England charges about 5 per cent co-pay on the cost of drugs in its Pharmacare program.
3. New Zealand has among the lowest drug costs in the world. They do this by placing a cap on total drug spending and making pharmaceutical companies bid on a share of that pie. The drawback is it does tend to slow the speed in which expensive new drugs become available, but does succeed in providing universal access to needed medications. There is a small co-pay of about $5 per prescription. There is no co-pay after 20 prescriptions are filled annually. There is practically no private coverage for pharmaceuticals in New Zealand. According to Matthew Brougham, former CEO of PHARMAC, New Zealand has been able to limit the increase in drug pricing over the last decade to 3 per cent per year compared to 9-10 per cent increases worldwide. While Canadian politicians claim they cannot afford to introduce Pharmacare, New Zealand adopted such a system precisely because the country was in dire economic circumstances.
4. The lack of universal drug coverage in Canada has not been for want of evidence or trying. Dr. Joel Lexchin of York University noted in his opening remarks that the Hall Commission recommended it in 1964, the National Health Forum did so in 1997, and it is now policy for both the federal Liberals and NDP. Lexchin says Canada’s Pharmaceutical policy resembles the U.S. health care system – some private coverage, some public, and a lot of people who have nothing. “This is not a pie in the sky scheme,” he said, noting Saskatchewan formerly had universal drug coverage.
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Tagged Barbara Martinez, Canadian Health Coalition, Jeff Connell, Joel Lexchin, John Abraham, Marc-Andre Gagnon, Marie Claude Premont, Matthew Brougham, Pharmacare Program, Rethinking Drug Coverage, Steve Morgan, Walter Robinson
In 2007 we attended SOS Medicare II, a high-profile national conference in Regina looking at the unfinished Medicare agenda.
Tommy Douglas’ original vision for Medicare extended far beyond what we have in Canada today. Once the envy of the world, our Medicare system is now wanting compared to other developed nations which have a much broader scope of public coverage.
Canada is drawing closer to the United States than Europe in the percentage of our health care system that remains totally private. The evidence is clear – the U.S. system is the most costly in the world and fails to deliver good population-based health outcomes. We spend far less than our neighbours to the south, live longer and have a much better infant mortality rate. If we want a truly more sustainable health care system, then perhaps it is time to start looking at expanding public coverage instead of delisting more services.
This year Pharmacare – public coverage for prescription drugs – is getting particular attention due to increased interest by the provinces. Canada is an outlier among developed nations for our lack of a universal Pharmacare program. While Conservatives would scoff at the cost of such a program, the reality is Canadians would stand to save substantially on health care costs with its introduction.
In February we were in Vancouver for Pharmacare 2020, a two-day event that involved a cross-section of patient advocates, pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, academics and labour. (Read our stories here.)
Two more events are now on the horizon:
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Tagged Council of the Federation, Don Husereau, Dr. Danielle Martin, Dr. Sanjeev Goel, Economic Case for Universal Pharmacare, Expanding Medicare in Canada, Marc-Andre Gagnon, Pharmacare 2013, Pharmacare 2020, Robert G. Evans, Steven Morgan
Jim Keon and Jody Shkrobot protect their turf during Pharmacare 2020 in Vancouver.
VANCOUVER – Almost 10 per cent of Canadians never fill their drug prescriptions. They can’t afford it.
We’re here in Vancouver for a unique forum to discuss what every major national health care system review over the last 50 years has recommended – the need for a national pharmacare program. We can no longer ignore the fact that universal access to prescription drugs is a necessary part of any modern health system. Canada is an outlier on the international stage – most countries have some form of universal pharmacare coverage for its citizens. Given the collective wealth of our nation, this is a major embarrassment. As one participant in Pharmacare 2020 noted, we have yet to enter the 21st century when it comes to drugs.
How different our health system might look should we have followed Justice Emmett M. Hall’s recommendations in 1964 that Canada move to a national pharmacare system with a $1 deductible on prescription drugs. Since then we have had the National Health Forum (1994-97) The Romanow Commission (2002) and the recent National Pharmaceutical Strategy which failed to come to any agreement on the objective of providing the basic minimum of catastrophic drug coverage. Seems the provinces could not agree not to bankrupt very ill citizens who are faced with steep drug costs.
It’s not like we are saving the public treasury money.
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Tagged Arthur Fabbio Jr., Barbara Walman, David Henry, Diane McArthur, Jim, Jody Shkrobot, Keon, Marc-Andre Gagnon, Michael Law, Pharmacare 2020, Steve Morgan, Vancouver Pharmacare Conference
Roy Romanow, the former Chair fo the Commission of the Future of Health in Canada, will be the keynote speaker November 30 at a free Canadian Health Coalition event in Ottawa.
The two-hour event at the Fairmount Chateau Laurier includes two panel discussions, one looking at threats to Medicare, the other looking at what the way forward should be.
Globe and Mail health reporter Andre Picard will moderate the panel discussions.
Panelists include Diana Gibson (Parkland Institute, Alberta); Dr. Marie- Claude Goulet (Médecins Québécois pour le Régime Public); Allan Maslove and Marc-André Gagnon (Carleton University School of Public Policy and Administration); Natalie Mehra (Ontario Health Coalition); John Abbott (Health Council of Canada); and Dr. Michael Rachlis (Independent policy analyst) and Sharon Scholzberg-Gray (Past-President Canadian Healthcare Association).
This event takes place in the Adam Room of the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. Not in Ottawa? You can watch it streamed live at http://healthcoalition.ca . To register to attend this free event, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 819-770-1626.