Nova Scotia·Health Hacks

What you should know about accessing prescription drugs in Nova Scotia

Under the Canada Health Act, anything considered medically necessary and provided by a physician in the hospital is typically covered. But when it comes to prescription drugs, it’s up to the province to include in its provincial insurance program.

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton shares her health hacks with CBC's Information Morning

Most health care providers don't ask about drug coverage plan before writing prescriptions, Mary Jane Hampton said. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

This is part of a series from CBC's Information Morning where Halifax health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton discusses her "health hacks" — ways to make your experience with the health-care system better.

Without a federal pharmacare program, many Canadians struggle to afford prescription drugs.

Under the Canada Health Act, anything considered medically necessary and provided by a physician in the hospital is typically covered, Mary Jane Hampton told CBC's Information Morning. 

But when it comes to anything beyond that, like coverage for prescription drugs, it's up to the province to include in its provincial insurance program.

Hampton said it can be confusing because it varies between provincial and private providers.

"It's a dog's breakfast, and it makes no sense," she said. "It's a scary problem for a lot of people."

There are things Canadians can keep in mind to help them navigate access to prescription drugs. The first, Hampton said, is to be "proactive and informed."

Mary Jane Hampton is a health-care consultant in Halifax. (Robert Short/CBC)

Most health-care providers don't ask if a person is on a drug plan before writing prescriptions, she said. Hampton said it is OK to let the provider know about level of coverage, if there is coverage.

Once that conversation has been had, Hampton said they may be able to provide samples to "get you over the hump," or to provide information about available provincial drug insurance plans.

If a person has an insurance plan, or is struggling to cover the out-of-pocket costs, Hampton said it's important to know how the plan works.

The Family Pharmacare program in Nova Scotia determines annual out-of pocket cost based on family income, she said, so if there is a sudden drop in family income the provider can be notified and the out-of-pocket threshold can be adjusted.

Hampton said if a person is part of the Community Services Pharmacare program and is taking multiple medications, the person can talk to a caseworker to have the $5 co-pay waived.

"That can really add up quickly for people," she said.

Costly prescription drugs and how to afford them. The subject of this week's Healthcare Hacks. 7:33

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