NDP promises affordable prescription drugs, advocate for seniors

An advocate for public pensioners in Newfoundland and Labrador welcomed a campaign promise by the NDP to dramatically increase funding to the prescription drug program and appoint and independent seniors' advocate.

Leader Earle McCurdy says an NDP government would invest $10M into drug program

Ralph Morris, an advocate for public pensioners in Newfoundland and Labrador, applauded a commitment by the NDP Tuesday to make prescription drugs more affordable and appoint a seniors' advocate. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

An advocate for public pensioners in Newfoundland and Labrador is welcoming a campaign promise by the NDP to dramatically increase funding to the prescription drug program and also appoint an independent seniors' advocate.

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy announced Tuesday that a government under his leadership would invest an additional $10 million into the drug program to help seniors.

He also pledged another $1 million to create an independent seniors' advocate that is modelled after the child and youth advocacy office.

Ralph Morris, past-president of the Pensioners' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, applauded the promises.

The retired paramedic said his group has been lobbying for more affordable prescription drugs for nearly two decades.

"We're seeing more and more seniors out there falling through the cracks, falling into poverty, as a result of being unable to purchase the medications that they need," Morris said.

Added pressure on the health system

​Morris said it's hypocritical to not have a national pharmacare program in a country with universal health care.

"The medicare is going to pay for the hospital bed that you lie in and your hospital room, but it won't pay for the medications that you have to take for your recovery when you get home," Morris said.

"The medication is really what's going to cure you. The bed is not going to cure you," he added.

The high cost of prescriptions is forcing many seniors to stop taking their medication, or in many cases reduce their intake, said Morris.

He said this places extra pressure on the health system because many seniors unnecessarily end up in hospital.

Nearly 9,000 seniors to benefit

The current drug program covers about 45 per cent of the province's seniors, or nearly 45,000 people. 

The NDP pledge would help an additional 8,750 seniors access the program, McCurdy said.

He added that the crippling cost of medications for those without insurance is a "sure recipe for further health problems that will lead to additional health costs."

McCurdy said the ultimate solution to the problem is a national pharmacare program, and he said an NDP government would lobby the federal government to create such a program.

"The evidence is clear it's a real good investment," McCurdy said.

As for the seniors' advocate, McCurdy said the newly created office would have a wide-ranging mandate, including the ability to conduct reviews and investigation.

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With files from Mark Quinn