purple image of woman holding a prescription bottle.
Social Justice and Democracy

One step closer to universal pharmacare for Canadians

June 4, 2024
Bruske: Pharmacare is the most significant enhancement to our healthcare system since the introduction of public healthcare in Canada.

Ottawa, ON – Canada is closer than ever to achieving a universal public drug plan. The Pharmacare Act, introduced to Parliament in February 2024, was passed last night, this framework will provide immediate coverage for diabetes medications and contraceptives, paving the way for the expansion of coverage to all essential medications for everyone in Canada.

“This was made possible because of labour activists and allies who have tirelessly championed pharmacare for decades,” said Siobhan Vipond, Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “This legislation will save money for both workers and employers, reducing the financial burden caused by a fragmented insurance system. It’s a step towards better healthcare, reducing the strain on our healthcare system by preventing costly hospital and doctors’ visits,” Vipond added.

Each year, one million Canadians have had to choose between basic necessities and their medications. For instance, medication for type 2 diabetes can cost up to $10,000 per year, and oral contraceptives cost $240 annually.

Bill C-64, An Act Respecting Pharmacare, establishes a framework for a universal single-payer pharmacare plan. This achievement, a result of the NDP’s influence in a minority parliament and collaboration with Health Minister Mark Holland, is the most substantial enhancement to Canadian healthcare since the introduction of public healthcare.

For the moment, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre remains noncommittal about whether a CPC government would dismantle programs like dental care, and pharmacare.

“The Conservatives have consistently opposed investments in childcare, public healthcare, and pharmacare, often aligning with the interests of Bay Street CEOs and corporate lobbyists. And they will continue to side with Big Pharma over the needs of Canadian families,” added Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Pharmacare will deliver better healthcare to millions of Canadians, provide financial relief, and empower them with greater control over their sexual and reproductive health,” she affirmed.

For pharmacare to succeed, provincial support is crucial. The current hybrid pharmacare program in Quebec, which combines public and private coverage, often leaves drug costs unaffordable for many individuals. This patchwork approach benefits insurance companies and Big Pharma by maintaining high profit margins. A comprehensive pharmacare plan that prioritizes people’s needs over profits is the way to go.

We consistently hear from workers across the country about the critical importance of pharmacare for them and their families. The message is unequivocal: Healthcare decisions should be made between you and your doctor, not dictated by your financial situation.

Canada’s unions are calling on the Senate to swiftly pass Bill C-64 which will improve healthcare for millions of people, ease the financial burden for families, and ensure Canadians have control over their sexual and reproductive health.

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