Saturday April 29, 2017
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday April 29, 2017
Proposed: Publicly funded drug plan for all Ontarians under 25
Give one cheer for the Liberals. Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario government has finally bit the bullet on publicly funded pharmacare.
Their scheme to provide those under 25 with free prescription drugs isn’t comprehensive. Nor, in spite of Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s boast, is it exactly path-breaking.
Saskatchewan already offers a similar, albeit less generous, drug plan to children 14 and under.
But it is a start.
The plan, announced in Thursday’s budget, would allow any Ontarian age 24 and under who needs prescription drugs for medical purposes to receive them at no cost.
Unlike the province’s drug plan for seniors, there would be no co-payment and no deductible. Unlike the drug plan for welfare recipients, there would be no means test.
Rather, like medicare, it would be universally available and cover the entire cost of roughly 4,400 drugs.
Experts can argue whether the Liberal pharmacare plan is better or worse than that pitched by Andrea Horwath’s Ontario New Democrats. The NDP proposes a scheme that would cover everyone under 65 but only for 125 commonly prescribed drugs.
But the Liberals have the advantage of being in power right now. If they follow through on their promise, their truncated pharmacare plan will come into effect next January.
For these reasons, any move toward universal publicly funded pharmacare is welcome and probably irreversible. Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown told reporters Thursday that he would prefer a scheme that is means-tested. But Ontario already has a drug benefit program for the poor.
What is useful about this scheme is precisely what Brown doesn’t like about it: It is a step on the road to universal pharmacare.
Sousa told reporters that he hopes Ontario’s move will persuade Ottawa and other provinces to act. Perhaps it will. (Source: Toronto Star)