"NUPGE supports the recommendations in the Hoskins report and calls on the federal government to implement universal, single-payer, public pharmacare" – Larry Brown, President
Ottawa (12 June 2019) – The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) fully supports the call made today in the report by the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. The federal government needs to take action to implement these recommendations.
A comprehensive blueprint for public pharmacare
This report is the most comprehensive and detailed blueprint ever produced for achieving universal pharmacare in Canada. It clearly outlines the steps towards universal, single-payer, public pharmacare and provides analysis on the costs and savings related to this program. It also provides clear timelines for a rational phase-in of this program.
'Fill in the gaps' clearly rejected
Hoskins has clearly rejected a 'fill in the gaps' strategy favoured by the large insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers. 'Fill in the gaps' does not make fiscal sense. It keeps our fragmented, inefficient system without the economies of scale and negotiating power needed to lower prices. Finance Minister Mourneau has pushed for 'fill in the gaps' as the solution to pharmacare and Hoskins analysis completely discredits this plan as unsustainable.
Canada is currently an 'outlier' by not having pharmacare
Hoskins' recommendations are not revolutionary. This plan outlines the actions Canada needs to take to catch up to other advanced economies. Canada is paying a big price by being the only country with universal health care that does not include universal pharmacare. The lack of universal public pharmacare means Canada has an inefficient patchwork system that does not cover everyone and where there is no one large negotiator who can get the lowest price from the companies. Canadians currently pay very high costs for prescription drugs and there are large gaps in coverage where many patients do not receive access to needed medication. Only the US and Switzerland pay more than Canada.
A blueprint to save medicare
Hoskins is calling for a phased-in approach with essential drugs brought in first in January 1, 2022 and then expanded where the full plan would come into affect in 2027. Hoskins notes there would be annual savings of $5 billion per year in the first year of the full program, which would then continue to increase over time. He also estimates savings of $350 per year per family and $750 per year per employee. The inflated prices caused by the current inefficient and costly system also draws much needed resources away from the public health care system. Provincial and federal governments also purchase prescription drugs and are paying too much for the medications they provide to patients. These are funds that could be better spent in other areas of our public health care system. Public health care is straining under the pressure of increased demand and constrained funding, we need to stop wasting money on inflated drug costs.
Election looming, but pharmacare should be non-partisan
Heading into an election, it will be easy for political parties to play politics with this report and this issue. NUPGE is encouraging all involved to resist using health care as a wedge issue. No matter what political party people support, they should be demanding that all parties support this arm-length, fact-based report. Right-wing politicians will be encouraged to call this another 'tax and spend' proposal, when it is really a proposal that will save billions of dollars in spending and any taxes spent on implementing will reduce overall costs dramatically. Other parties may be considering whether backing Hoskins will win them votes. This is not the right question to answer — all parties should be supporting pharmacare as good public policy and one that makes Canada a better society by ensuring all patients have access to the medications they need and by ensuring that Canada is getting good value for money when purchasing prescription drugs.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE