Nova Scotia pharmacare changes will cost some people thousands

Many Nova Scotians aged 65 and older will start paying more for pharmacare as of April 1.

Changes effective April 1 will increase costs for some, and reduce them for about 29,000 people

Albert Rothwell will no longer pay $424 a year — he'll pay $1,200. So will his wife. (CBC)

Many Nova Scotians aged 65 and older will start paying more for pharmacare as of April 1.

The province is changing premiums for the seniors' pharmacare program so that the more you make, the more you will pay.

That means 76-year-old Albert Rothwell will no longer pay $424 a year — he'll pay $1,200. So will his wife.

"That gives us a grand total of $2,400 a year. Basically if you look at it, it works out to roughly a 200 per cent increase in the premium, which is totally ridiculous," he said.

"I think it was done sort of under the table. It appears to be policy. It didn't go through legislature. And again, just to slide this out on to you all of a sudden, it's just unbelievable."

Many MLAs have received calls from people in similar situations. Others will pay less, as the co-pay portion will fall by ten per cent.

Maureen MacDonald, the interim leader of the NDP in Nova Scotia, objects to the changes.

"That is the largest tax grab that anybody has seen in our province ever. And it's falling on the backs of people who have built this province. And it's for drugs. For healthcare. There's no justification for this," she said.

About 29,000 will pay less

The prescription insurance program is offered to seniors who aren't covered privately. Seniors in the program pay a yearly premium, and a co-pay when they pick up their drugs.

Under the existing system, seniors who earn $100,000 pay the same annual premium of $424 as a senior making $24,000 per year.

Anyone currently receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement is exempt from paying a premium, but that will change for some in April if the provincial government thinks they're rich enough to pay.

"I believe the department has put forth a fair, equitable and a formula that in the long term to have a sustainable system is what Nova Scotians need," said Health Minister Leo Glavine.

The Health Department says it doesn't know how many seniors will have to pay a premium for the first time come April, but it will include some people receiving the GIS — who are considered low income by the federal government.

When he announced the changes, Glavine said 12,000 people who now pay premiums won't have to pay after the new system goes into effect April 1.

After the change goes through, the maximum amount people will pay annually will be $1,200. Seniors who earn $24,000 per year will now only have to pay $41 annually for coverage. The amounts differ for single people and couples. 

Officials also say about two-thirds of seniors won't see any change in what they pay and about 29,000 people will end up paying less. 

The province estimates about 8,000 seniors, or seven per cent of the total number of seniors, will pay the maximum amount.


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