ADVOCACY WIN: Surrey Board of Trade Pleased with Today’s Pharmacare Now Report by Canada’s Standing Committee on Health

Today, Bill Casey the Chair of the Standing Committee on Health released the long awaited report: PHARMACARE NOW: PRESCRIPTION MEDICINE COVERAGE FOR ALL CANADIANS.

“The Surrey Board of Trade was very pleased with the 18 recommendations issued in today’s report. This is a step in the right direction. The only concern is that further consultation is being asked, which could delay what we are asking for – and that is a universal pharmacare program in Canada. I believe we have waited long enough. Let’s get it done,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade.

“The Surrey Board of Trade was referenced many times within the report (Page 56 and 80 notably) – and was the only business organization that took a leadership role in Canada on this very important issue.”

The report indicated that the Standing Health Committee believes that the best way to move forward in establishing a universal single payer public prescription drug coverage program is by expanding the Canada Health Act to include prescription drugs dispensed outside of hospitals as an insured service under the Act.

The potential is to reduce total annual prescription pharmaceutical expenditures by $4.2 billion, based upon prudent estimates. Such an approach would also ensure that all Canadians have equitable and affordable access to life saving prescription drugs. In short, it will save money and lives.

However, the Committee recognizes that in moving towards a single payer universal publicly funded prescription drug coverage, governments will be assuming significant costs from the private sector in the order of $10.7 billion before potential savings are realized. The Committee believes that the program should be cost-shared between federal, provincial and territorial governments. It will also be necessary for the federal government to undertake consultations with employers, unions, private drug plans and Canadians at large to identify the best possible approaches towards financing this new program.

This report contained 18 concrete recommendations that the Committee believes will lay the framework for the provision of pharmacare to all Canadians.

According to Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade, “There are strains on all businesses. Costs are high and uncontrolled for those who do offer drug coverage. Costs are an impediment for some companies to offer any coverage.”

Employers could use the savings that they obtain from the creation of a national pharmacare program to enhance their coverage of other services, such as mental health, vision care, dental care, hearing care, and physiotherapy. The coverage offered by the public program would have to be comprehensive, as limited prescription drug coverage programs such as British Columbia’s Catastrophic Drug Coverage program, continue to pose burdens on employers by not meeting employee health needs.

We have taken this position because our members have expressed serious concerns about high, uncontrolled costs private drug plans. This is a burden on companies that do offer drug coverage to their employees and can be an impediment for some companies to offer any coverage at all.

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