Politics

MP committee's report on pharmacare landing today

The House of Commons all-party health committee will officially table its report on the prospects for a national pharmacare program today.

MPs managed to reach some consensus on calls for a national drug plan

A Commons all-party report on pharmacare is being released today. (CBC)

The House of Commons all-party health committee will officially table its report on the prospects for a national pharmacare program today.

And it appears there's consensus among all parties in the Commons on the need to implement at least some of the recommendations in the Pharmacare Now report.

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu said all MPs involved in drafting the report worked hard to find common ground.

"Everybody is on the same page as far as making sure that all Canadians have access to prescription drugs regardless of their ability to pay," Gladu told CBC.

Over the past two years,  committee members have heard testimony from 99 witnesses.

Jean-Pierre St.-Onge is a member of the Citizens Reference Panel in Pharmacare in Canada, a group that made recommendations to the committee.

The 35 volunteers in his group held a week of meetings and put together a list of pharmacare recommendations for the federal government. He said the key recommendation is for Ottawa to create a national plan to cover all Canadians for a list of commonly-prescribed drugs.

St.-Onge said he believes such a program would give Canadians solid coverage while saving the health system money.

"The cost would probably drop at least $5 billion if there was one purchaser of insurance medical products," he said.

Gladu said she isn't convinced a universal plan would save money — which is why her party is filing a supplementary report.

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu: "Nobody wants to see their taxes increase in order to pay for it." (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"The supplementary report just points out the places where there were questions that were unanswered, or costs we're not sure of, and recommends that we do some consultations with the provinces because they have jurisdiction over the execution," Gladu said.

​"Although Canadians really want this coverage, nobody wants to see their taxes increase in order to pay for it."

The federal government recently appointed former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins to lead an advisory panel on creating a national pharmacare program. Gladu said she hopes that panel can answer the outstanding questions.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said she is "really looking forward" to seeing what the committee came up with.

"I'm going to be reading that report from cover to cover," she said. "I'm sure we're going to be building on the good work ... the committee members have done."

Bill Morneau's latest budget is as much about what's IN IT... As it is about what's NOT in it. What's in: $21.5 billion in new spending over 6 years, including $1.4 billion for First Nations Child and Family Services, and 5 weeks of extra leave for two-parent families. What's out: no plan to return to balance - and $18.1B projected deficit, no details on pay equity legislation or about Pharmacare, and barely any mention of the uncertainty surrounding NAFTA, and the level of competitiveness versus the United States. Finance Minister, Bill Morneau joins us.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently told the CBC Radio program The House that his government wants to ensure all Canadians get the medicines they need, but it doesn't yet know how to best make that happen.

St.-Onge said even though today's report isn't the final word on pharmacare, he's still excited to see what's in it.

"Now they have a lot of information and decision makers can do something about it. It's just a matter of will. If the deciders have the will to improve the situation, there's a way to do it, no doubt."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Lunn has been covering politics in Ottawa since 2002. She has a special interest in health and the environment.

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