NDP’s Singh questions provinces mulling pharmacare opt-out

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he believes provinces voicing plans to opt out of a national pharmacare plan will likely opt in eventually, noting similar sentiments were seen when universal health care became law in Canada.

“What happened was provinces had universal health care in some places, and people said, ‘Well, we’re getting our coverage,’ and then people said, ‘Well, why aren’t we getting our coverage,’” he told reporters Monday.

His comments came one day after Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange wrote in an email to Global News that if the federal government pursues a national pharmacare program, the province intends to opt out and would seek a per-capita share of the funding.

A spokesperson from her office said Alberta was not consulted on the national pharmacare plan, “and there are limitations in the initial analysis and assumptions, including start-up investment and administrative costs to implement a cost-sharing model, that were not taken into consideration that add costs for the provinces.”

The spokesperson said the vast majority of Albertans have access to contraceptives through employer or government health care insurance plans. However, Dr. Rupindeer Toor told Global News not all programs are available to residents and can be patchy and difficult to access.

Ontario provides many contraceptives for people under the age of 25 who don’t have private insurance. Manitoba’s government has already pledged to do so as well.

The latest health and medical news
emailed to you every Sunday.

The New Democrats said birth control coverage will help millions of women and gender-diverse people.

Singh questioned the move, saying Premier Danielle Smith could face questions if the province moved forward with its decision to opt out.

“I think it will be very difficult for the premier in Alberta to explain to people in Alberta who can’t afford their diabetes medication why they’re turning down an investment that would cover everyone in that province for their insulin and for their medical devices necessary for diabetes,” Singh said.

Diabetes medication is one of two specific categories of drugs that would be covered in the deal, with insulin for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as additional diabetes drugs to see full coverage. The deal also includes coverage for contraceptives similar to British Columbia, which includes birth control pills, IUDs and emergency contraception.

The deal also puts forward a fund to help provinces cover the cost of insulin pumps for diabetes patients, for which the NDP wanted maximum coverage, a source told Global News.

But Alberta is not the only province voicing concerns, with Quebec also previously having said — before the deal was reached Friday — it would opt out if the option is there.

Asked by reporters if an option to opt out would be included, Singh appeared to sidestep, saying the plan was to negotiate to provide single-payer public funding to make sure people can access medication.

The NDP leader went on to say there are still further steps to come with pharmacare, including discussions on all the medication that will be covered as well as determining how medication can be purchased in bulk.

He was also questioned on why contraceptives and diabetes medications were advocated for, to which Singh said the party had to fight for these drugs to be included, pegging the election of more NDP MPs as what will be needed to get more classes of drugs added.

“If we want to complete the work of pharmacare, the Liberals are not going to do it,” he said.

If the federal government moves towards fully implementing national pharmacare, that wider program is expected to cost roughly $40 billion a year in total, the parliamentary budget officer said in a report last fall. The report said the incremental cost to the public sector, including federal and provincial governments, would rise from $11.2 billion in 2024-25 to $13.4 billion in 2027-28.

However, such a program was also estimated to lead to cost savings on drug expenditures of $1.4 billion in 2024-25, with that figure increasing to $2.2 billion by 2027-28.

A source close to the pharmacare talks told the Canadian Press the Liberals made it clear they had about $800 million to spend for an initial program, and over the weekend Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the plan would need to be “fiscally responsible.”

with files from Global News’ David Baxter and Carolyn Kury de Castillo and The Canadian Press

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *