HESA Committee News Release
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Standing Committee on Health
Comité permanent de la santé
For immediate release
HOUSE OF COMMONS STANDING COMMITTEE ON HEALTH CALLS FOR PRESCRIPTION MEDICINE COVERAGE FOR ALL CANADIANS
Ottawa, April 18, 2018 -
Bill Casey, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, tabled the Committee’s report entitled Pharmacare Now: Prescription Medicine Coverage for All Canadians. In tabling the report in the House of Commons, Committee Chair Bill Casey stressed that “Canadians can save money and have better health outcomes with a national pharmacare program.”
The report outlines 18 concrete recommendations that the Committee believes will lay the framework for the establishment of a single payer, publicly funded prescription drug coverage program for all Canadians. The report and its recommendations reflect the testimony and evidence presented to the Committee by a wide range of witnesses over the course of 23 hearings from April 2016 to October 2017, including health care providers, patients, industry representatives, academics, government officials, Indigenous communities, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, as well as other interested stakeholders.
During the course of the Committee’s hearings, witnesses highlighted the key challenges facing Canada’s patchwork of public and private drug plans, including gaps in coverage; variations in drug formulary listing decisions; difficulties in managing rising costs; the increasing burden that private drug plans are posing on employers and employees; and inappropriate prescribing practices.
However, the Committee also heard that these challenges are nothing new. Despite efforts over the years to rein in costs and fill gaps in coverage, witnesses explained that many Canadians are still having to choose between the necessities of life and filling their prescriptions, leading to poor health outcomes and higher system costs. The vast majority of witnesses therefore argued that incremental reform to address gaps in coverage is no longer enough.
The Committee agrees that the status quo is no longer acceptable. All Canadians must have equitable and affordable access to prescription medicines. After consideration of different policy proposals, the Committee has concluded that the best way to move forward is by expanding the Canada Health Act to include prescription drugs dispensed outside hospitals as an insured service under the Act. A study by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that this approach has the potential to reduce total annual prescription pharmaceutical expenditures by $4.2 billion, based upon 2015-2016 figures.
The Committee recognizes that the creation of a national pharmacare program will require significant leadership from the federal government in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, health care providers, patients, private health insurance companies, unions, and businesses in moving forward.
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