Celebrate Medicare’s 50th anniversary by introducing pharmacare

National system for drug coverage is next step in building the Canadian health care system

Edmonton – Canada took the first step toward universal health care 50 years ago this week, now it’s time to take the next step by creating a universal pharmacare system that covers all necessary prescription drugs.

On December 19, 1966, parliament proclaimed the Health Care Act as the law of the land, creating the single-payer health-care system that Canadians cherish. But unfortunately, unlike public health-care systems in almost every other developed nation, ours does not cover drug prescriptions outside of the hospital.

“50 years ago, we took the first step:  universal health care. Now it’s time to take the next step by ensuring universal access to needed prescription medications to all patients, regardless of income,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Today as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the country’s achievements through the Health Care Act, let’s remember that one-in-ten of our fellow Canadians will not fill a prescription because of the cost. And let’s recommit ourselves to making our system truly inclusive and just.”

Pharmaceutical coverage is one of the fastest-growing costs in our health-care system. Every year, Canadians now spend $30 billion filling prescriptions outside of the hospital — a figure that could be reduced by up to $11 billion through the cost efficiencies and better bargaining position that a national pharmaceutical plan would provide.

“Canada ranks second-worst amongst OECD countries in terms of drug coverage, second only to the United States. We pay the second-highest costs for needed medications, again second only to the United States,” McGowan said.  “I don’t think many Canadians would be comfortable with being compared to the United States when it comes to any aspect of our health care.”

When people fail to take preventative medications because they can’t afford their prescriptions, their manageable symptoms often get worse and they are forced to use more expensive medical services that are covered by the Canadian Health Care System.

“Failing to ensure that people have access to the drugs they need is penny wise, pound foolish,” McGowan said. “Pharmacare is the next step in the story of Canada.”


Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail [email protected].

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