Social Justice and Democracy

Canada’s unions unite with employers, doctors and retirees to call for pharmacare

February 6, 2018

Canada needs a universal prescription drug plan that covers all Canadians regardless of their age, income, or where they work or live. This was the message delivered in a news conference on Parliament Hill today by unions, employers, doctors and retirees.

The same message is being highlighted in meetings today between over 300 union representatives from across Canada and more than 175 ministers, Members of Parliament and Senators.

“Nobody should have to choose between buying groceries and paying for the medication they need,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “But today 3.5 million Canadians can’t afford their prescriptions.”

“That’s why Canada’s unions are campaigning for pharmacare, here with our lobby day on Parliament Hill today, and over the next few months with town hall meetings across the country,” he added.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, emphasized why employers are out front in the push for universal pharmacare.

“The burden of Canada’s incomplete and inefficient system of public drug coverage falls heavily on businesses, especially small and medium sized enterprises that comprise the backbone of Canada’s economy,” she added. “With rising costs of medications, many businesses are seeing their bottom lines erode and some find they simply cannot afford to provide insurance plans for their employees.”

Dr. Monika Dutt, a family physician and Canadian Doctors for Medicare board member, emphasized the cost of health outcomes when patients fail to take their medications as prescribed.

“As a doctor, it’s hard to come up with an effective care plan for a patient when you’re uncertain if they can afford to fill their prescriptions or take their medications as prescribed,” said Dr. Dutt.

A recent study by Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives highlights why pharmacare makes economic sense too.

“Our research found that a universal pharmacare plan will save billions of dollars a year by eliminating current federal, provincial and territorial programs, private insurance and out-of-pocket expenses paid by individual Canadians,” she added.

Marissa Semkiw, Director of Policy and Government Relations for CARP, highlighted support for pharmacare among her organization’s membership.

“Ten percent of CARP members have admitted to skipping prescription medications because of costs, and 87 percent support consistent drug coverage across all of Canada,” said Semkiw. “Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal health care program that doesn’t include a universal prescription drug plan. It’s time we recognize that the two go hand in hand.”

Almost 30,000 Canadians have signed on to the CLC’s petition calling for universal pharmacare since its campaign launched on Labour Day. Over the next few months, the CLC will host town hall meetings in more than 25 communities across the country, featuring Canada’s foremost pharmacare experts and advocates.

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