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Shifting the burden not the way to get rising drug costs under control, says HEU

The Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) says the average senior or family in B.C. will pay significantly more for prescription drug costs as a result of complex changes in the provincial Pharmacare program announced today.

“No matter how the government tries to dress it up, the new income testing scheme means British Columbians will pay about $90 million more this year alone for prescription drug costs,” says HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt.

“While the provincial government’s plan adds to existing measures to cushion really low income earners, the fact is the average senior will pay more, while the average family’s share of drug costs will skyrocket,” he says.

According to union calculations, the average single female over the age of 65 will pay six per cent more, the average single male senior will pay 30 per cent in added costs, while the average family with children faces a steep increase of up to $1,850 annually. “That’s simply not fair,” says Allnutt.

Victoria should have waited, says the HEU spokesperson, until details become available for the recent federal-provincial health accord that includes new funding for catastrophic drug coverage. While acknowledging that public pressure had forced the Liberals to significantly scale back plans to make British Columbians pay more, he warns these changes could spawn a new and unnecessary bureaucracy and bloat administrative costs for Pharmacare.

“If Victoria truly wants to contain drug costs then it would embark on an entirely different set of measures,” Allnutt says. “There are a host of more progressive alternatives to pursue, ranging from serious efforts to address the problem of over prescribing drugs for seniors to expanded drug purchasing strategies that have already demonstrated cost savings.”

Meanwhile, Allnutt says Victoria faces an uphill public opinion battle. Some 72 per cent of British Columbians surveyed in a mid-January HEU/McIntyre and Mustel poll agreed that Pharmacare changes will create financial hardships for seniors and families.


Stephen Howard, communications director, 604-456-7037