Many Canadians don’t know what pharmacare is. Some might guess it’s a subsidy program for farms, or even a health insurance program for farm animals.

This lack of awareness should be forgiven; Canada is the only country with a universal health care system that doesn’t have a national pharmacare plan.

Pharmacare is a national publicly funded and administered insurance plan for medicine that covers the cost of essential drugs the way Medicare covers hospitals and physicians.

Some provinces cover part of the cost of medicine for seniors. In Quebec, a public pharmacare plan is available for anyone who doesn’t have private insurance. But other provinces don’t provide any coverage, and most Canadians have to pay the full amount unless they have a workplace plan. Unfortunately Canada has one of the highest costs for medicine among OECD countries, which means many people just can’t afford to pay for the medicine they require.

But wouldn’t a national publicly funded plan for medicine be expensive? Actually, no! A national plan could in fact save money if it involved better control over drug costs, as other countries have done. It would also provide equal access to prescription drugs for all Canadians and better control over the use of medicine. Plus it could save up to $10 billion annually in drug costs for individual Canadians, our governments, and workplace plans.

A national pharmacare plan is supported by the Canadian Medical Association, provinces, unions, seniors groups and many others. What’s not to like? Once again, it’s our current federal government that hasn’t been supportive. But if enough people get involved, eventually we can achieve change for the better.

Check out the latest issue of Tabletalk to learn about the growing cost of for-profit insurance, and visit for info on how you can support a national pharmacare plan.