Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday September 3, 2021
Pharmacare AWOL in 2021
Nearly a quarter century ago, the federal government hosted a conference on national pharmacare in Saskatoon – the birthplace of Canadian medicare. The meeting was extraordinarily frustrating to delegates who anticipated action, not talk, at the time.
We know because we were there.
You see, that Saskatoon meeting was held on the heels of Prime Minister Chrétien’s 1997 National Forum on Health. Echoing previous national commissions, the forum recommended the implementation of a universal, comprehensive, public pharmacare program to work alongside Canadian medicare.
Yet, there we were, an audience of approximately 300 health professionals, experts, public representatives and stakeholders gathered to “engage in dialogue” on an issue that already had a very clear answer.
The national pharmacare system recommended would have reduced Canadian drug costs dramatically, meaning savings for governments, businesses and households. More Canadians would have access to medicines because they would be fully covered, but manufacturers would no longer be able to charge more in Canada than they did in comparable countries.
Drug companies preferred that Canada adopt a system of mandatory private insurance based on the model they had just convinced the Quebec government to implement in 1997 — at great cost to Quebec households and businesses. Insurers favoured the Quebec model too – what industry wouldn’t want people to be legally required to purchase their products without regulations on profit margins?
In 2019, the Liberals campaigned on a promise to act on pharmacare plan. Such a national pharmacare system was mentioned in the 2020 Throne Speech, Budget 2021 and 2021 mandate letters. But there has been little concrete action toward implementation.
Instead, the federal government has reverted yet again to “stakeholder engagement,” rather than policy action. (Red Deer Advocate)