Edmonton More than one-third of public health care support workers in Alberta are without a drug benefit plan, says CUPE Alberta President Bruce McLeod.
Access to prescription drugs is an essential part of health care for all Canadians. Yet, it is increasingly difficult in Alberta to ensure all workers have adequate coverage due to escalating costs and the increasing casualization of public sector work, he said.
McLeod made the comments when presenting evidence of the gaps in access to prescription drug coverage in Alberta to the Federal Government Standing Committee on Health. The Committee was in Edmonton as part of its cross Canada hearings to study prescription drugs. CUPEs presentation is part of its ongoing work in defence of public sector employees.
Most casual and many part-time employees in the Albertas public sector have no drug benefit coverage.
For the most part Canadians rely on employer benefits for drug plans. However, the rising cost of medically necessary drugs is making it increasingly difficult to negotiate in union contracts. At the same time, co-payments are escalating and many people with drug plans face financial barriers to access prescription drugs, said McLeod.
McLeod also raised the impact of privatization in his presentation. Pointing out that the ongoing pressure to privatize public services poses a serious threat to the accessibility of prescription drugs.
Privatization often results in the loss of benefits and downloading of costs to individuals who may also be working for lower wages. No access to high cost prescription drugs really means no access to treatments and in some cases a cure, said McLeod.
CUPE is Canadas largest union with over half a million women and men who provide public services. In Alberta, CUPEs 32,000 members work in health care, municipalities, schools, colleges, universities, museums, libraries, emergency medical services, social services and casinos. Visit our CUPE websites for more information www.cupe.ca and www.cupealberta.ab.ca.
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