It's Time for Canada to Act on Universal Pharmacare

In 2022, the government agreed to pass a Canada Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023 as part of the supply and confidence agreement with the NDP. Now, with just a few weeks left before the December break, New Democrats are pushing for a bill that won’t compromise on a universal, singlepayer pharmacare program delivered through the public health care system. But industry lobbyists are looking for something completely different — an American-style program of private insurance for prescription drugs that will funnel taxpayer dollars to private corporations.

The Parliamentary Budget Office, the independent body that analyses fiscal proposals and tracks spending, released a report in October that found that a single-payer universal drug plan would lead to economy-wide savings and improve the health of the millions of Canadians who go without essential medications due to cost. It will be hard for the Liberal government to ignore the PBO report and their own studies that have recommended a single-payer universal program. But the time has come for the government to decide.

Will the government side with industry lobbyists or live up to their promises to Canadians and the agreement they have signed with the NDP?

Pharmacare saves money and lives.

Canada’s universal public healthcare system covers visits to the doctor and medically necessary health care delivered in hospital or clinic, but it does not cover prescription drugs. One in five Canadian families cannot afford their prescription medications. This means families are forced to choose between paying for food, housing, or medication. When people choose not to take medicines due to their cost, they suffer worse health outcomes and add to healthcare costs. A universal pharmacare program would cover prescription medications for all Canadians.

The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that universal pharmacare will save Canadians would approximately $2 billion a year thanks to the bulk purchasing power afforded by a single-payer system.

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