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A New Canada Day Around the Corner…

Canada Day is right around the corner, and with it comes a chance for the entire country to get together and celebrate what makes Canada, well, Canada.
This year, more than most, there will be a tinge of political sprinkling with the celebrations, due to the federal elections taking place in October 2019. Trudeau’s liberals will make every effort to rally Canadians and make beautiful speeches about unity and inclusion of all races and religions. Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives will try to take a jab at the Liberals and more than likely point out their overspending. So if you’re planning a trip to Ottawa to celebrate, be warned there may be more than one political aspect to the celebrations this year.
Amid all this, one major issue will rule through the summer and fall: national pharmacare. Despite many benefits to its health system, Canada does not have a universal, single-payer, public, national pharmacare system. Such a system would ensure, among other things, access to free prescription medicine. Considering Canada’s aging population is on the rise, with most Baby Boomers nearing retirement, this is a concern. And given the federal and provincial governments are constantly squabbling over who gets to do what, well, we’re nowhere closer to that utopia of a national unity on health.
In my university years, I worked for the national information call line (1-800-Ocanada). It’s a service available to all Canadians that can route you to various government departments, depending on what you need. Don’t know how to set up a business? Question about your taxes? Question about retiriring? Don’t know what to do if you change addresses? Want to know about various permanent resident programs? 1-800-Ocanada (1-800-622-6232) has the answer. We used to get all kinds of calls, but I can tell you the majority of pensioners were calling for information on what avenues are available to them if they can’t pay their medicine with their pension. See, whatever amount they were receiving monthly from Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security (the 2 pensions you receive in Canada) was not enough to cover their living costs. According to livingin-canada.com, “The Canada Pension Plan is capped at a maximum of $1134.17 per month (2018).” That means $1134.17 is the maximum you can get... per month. I’m not surprised many Canadians don’t see this as a satisfactory income. It’s barely enough for food, gas and utilities bills, let alone rent! Also according to Service Canada, “the average monthly retirement pension (at age 65) in March 2018 was just $666.56.”
This is a dire picture for those who are nearing retirement. When the cost of living is ever-rising, how can one be expected to survive on a meagre $1134.17 per month? For that matter, how, exactly, are pensioners surviving today?
So as far as helping out, sure, the proposed national pharmacare system would indeed help. Reports say it would lower the cost of medicines per household by $200/month or more. 84% of Canadians are on board and supporting it. A few days ago, the report on pharmacare was made public and the man leading it, Dr. Eric Hoskins, presented it. According to the report, this universal plan (costing $15 billion, no less) will cover all Canadians. A national drug agency would also be created to draft a list of all the prescription medicines to be covered and negotiate prices with the major pharmaceutical companies. This draft list would contain, initially, “common and essential drugs” - what are those, you may ask? Who knows. But also according to the report, once implemented, this new program would save an estimated $5 billion annually in drug costs.
Then there is the question of how such a system would be paid for... And what, exactly, would be the implications given Canada’s opioid crisis? If we can get access to free prescription meds, does that make opioids like fentanyl more accessible, or less so?
Food for thought as we near yet another Canadian election. And you can definitely expect to hear more of this as we near October… The full report on pharmacare can be read here:https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/corporate/about-health-canada/public-engagement/external-advisory-bodies/implementation-national-pharmacare/final-report.html

Alexa Whitewolf    6/18/2019


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