A universal public prescription drugs program would be a progressive and positive change to our current patchwork system. Universal Pharmacare would leave no Canadian behind, and, almost as importantly, would significantly reduce costs to governments, to employers and to workers. That is the conclusion of a recent in-depth analysis done by CUPE.

Our current prescription drug approach is based on provincial plans with wildly different – and most-often minimal – coverage on one hand, and on the other, a hodgepodge, “hybrid” system where public and private insurance coexist. This is shown to be highly inefficient.

On September 27, CUPE will be presenting a submission to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health. The committee has been studying the development of a national Pharmacare program, since April.

The submission clearly and unequivocally shows that private insurance plans have three major downsides. First, they are not available to all. Low-wage, part-time and precarious workers – who typically are not covered by a workplace plan – are especially at risk. Second, the drug costs are rising quickly on private insurers and these costs are almost entirely shifted on the back of workers. Third, the high number of public and private insurers reduces the capacity to save money though bulk purchasing of drugs.

All these problems would be resolved with a public system, rather than the patchwork system we have in Canada now. Public solutions can work better and save money.

Some statistics:

  • Households who often cannot afford to buy prescribed medication: 25 per cent.
  • A comprehensive Pharmacare program, similar to New Zealand’s, could save Canadians almost $10 billion a year.
  • Employees earning more than $100,000 covered by a workplace health insurance plan: 94 per cent.
  • Employees earning less than $20,000 covered by a workplace health insurance plan: 32 per cent.