British Columbia

What should universal pharmacare look like? Advisory council turns to B.C. citizens for answers

A collaborative study by UBC and Statistics Canada, published earlier this year, found more than 700,000 Canadians skipped food purchases in 2016 to pay for prescription medications.

More than 700K Canadians skipped food purchases in 2016 to pay for prescription medications

Canadians currently pay among the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The federal Liberal government is taking a closer look at implementing universal pharmacare and its advisory council is in Vancouver this week to hear from citizens about the possible program.

Universal pharmacare has been recommended, debated and campaigned upon extensively, but has still not come to fruition.

About one in 10 Canadians are not able to cover the cost of drugs, according to a study by the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto.  

"We know where we need to get to — a system of universal, equitable and evidence-based coverage for Canadians," said Steven Morgan, a professor of health policy at UBC and long-time advocate for universal pharmacare.

A collaborative study by UBC and Statistics Canada, published earlier this year, found more than 700,000 Canadians skipped food purchases in 2016 to pay for prescription medications.

"What this advisory council is doing is really important — trying to chart a path," Morgan told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Consulting with Canadians

The Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, chaired by former Ontario health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, is consulting with citizens across the country as well as experts, stakeholders and leaders to create a recommendation report.

The advisory council's final report will be delivered in the spring of 2019 to the federal minister of health and the minister of finance.

Morgan described universal pharmacare as a health care step that should have been taken decades ago when other health insurance programs were introduced but failed because of a lack of political will and pressure.

He is optimistic about the current push for pharmacare.

"We're about as close as we've been in the last 20 or so years where this has been very seriously studied," Morgan said.

"But, at the end of the day, what it is going to require is political will and that in part means it's going to require citizens telling their politicians that they want to see this happen."

The community dialogue event is being held Wednesday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver.

The federal Liberal government is taking a closer look at implementing universal pharmacare and its advisory council is in Vancouver this week to hear from citizens about the possible program. 8:20

With files from The Early Edition.

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