Universal pharmacare needed to address employment inequities

In yesterday’s Throne Speech, the Trudeau Liberals promised to help people who are sick to get the help they need. The government acknowledged that too many Canadians suffer financial hardship because of the cost of their medications. Our patchwork system of 100 public and over 100,000 drug plans is failing us. We need change now. 

Despite this recognition, the government provided no indication of what steps it will take towards implementing a national pharmacare plan, or whether the plan will be public, cover all safe and effective medications, and be accessible to everyone.

This is disappointing given that every national study on Canada’s health care system over the past 50 years has recommended that prescription drugs be covered by our universal health care system. 

It also comes on the heels of a troubling study recently published by the Wellesley Institute, which found that 1.5 million workers in Ontario do not have prescription medication coverage.  30% of part-time workers compared to 21% of full-time workers, do not have medication coverage. Only 44% of part-time compared to 69% of full-time workers, have coverage through an employer-sponsored benefits plan.

Disparities in drug coverage are even worse for part-time workers who are women, recent immigrants, visible minorities, and aged 25 to 34. Given that part-time workers are also more likely to be paid low wages, these iniquities are very concerning because they’re more likely to struggle to afford out-of-pocket medication costs and may not fill or renew needed prescriptions.  This isn’t just an Ontario issue. Part-time workers across the country face the same problems.

With no clear indication of what kind of pharmacare plan the Liberals intend to introduce, it’s clear we need to keep up our fight to ensure that the government implements a national, public, universal, comprehensive, and single payer pharmacare plan that will benefit everyone.

Source: CUPE National