Clock at parliament hill with text "act now" on topThe Canadian Union of Public Employees welcomes the National Pharmacare Advisory Council’s recommendation of a universal, single-payer pharmacare program for Canada, and is urging the federal government to immediately put it into action.

For years, CUPE has been calling on the federal government to create a universal, single-payer pharmacare program. Nearly one quarter of households in Canada include someone who is not taking their medication as prescribed because of cost, and one in 10 Canadians can’t afford their medication at all. Almost one million Canadians report having to make choices between paying for their medications or paying for other essentials like food and home heating.

Today’s announcement marks a major step towards making life better for Canadians who rely on life-saving medication, however, CUPE National President Mark Hancock says the questions of timing and funding remain major causes for concern.

“We welcome the Council’s report but let’s keep in mind that Finance Minister Bill Morneau is already on record saying he supports the same patchwork model as Bay Street and the insurance lobby, and the report’s concessions to big pharma and the insurance industry are troubling,” said Hancock. “Today’s announcement will only mean something when the government commits to the legislation and the funding to make a universal pharmacare plan a reality.”

CUPE believes that any pharmacare plan must begin within a single government mandate, accompanied by the funding needed to get it off the ground in short order. CUPE is concerned that the Council’s recommended phase-in for a comprehensive formulary is too slow, spanning multiple government mandates, and runs the risk of being lost under different governments.

“Canada is the last country with national public health care that doesn’t have a pharmacare program,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury. “Canadians have waited long enough for pharmacare - they can’t afford to wait another four or eight years for governments to get their act together.”

Photo credit: John Talbot This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.