The House

Midweek podcast: Recommendations on the path to national pharmacare

This week on the midweek podcast, Dr. Eric Hoskins, head of the government's pharmacare advisory council, talks about the new report recommending universal coverage. We'll also get reaction from Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
Former Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins just delivered a report on the national implementation of pharmacare. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode25:44

The head of the advisory council that just recommended a national pharmacare program says the lead up to an election is the perfect time to have a conversation about drug coverage.

"I think it's great timing," Former Ontario Liberal Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins told The House.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for Canadians from all walks of life to engage in the conversation. We know it's going to be part of this election campaign." 

On Wednesday, Hoskins' team announced the findings of their report into pharmacare. 

The panel, appointed by the prime minister, is recommending the establishment of a universal, single-payer public pharmacare system.

The council's 171-page report, released Wednesday, calls for the creation of a new drug agency that would draft a national list of prescription medicines that would be covered by the taxpayer, beginning with an initial list of common and essential drugs, by Jan. 1, 2022.

The council recommends that initial list be expanded to a comprehensive plan by Jan. 2, 2027. When fully implemented, the total cost would be $15 billion a year.

With a federal election coming up in October, Hoskins says it's time to put this idea to the test.

"I think there's probably no better time to have this discussion than with all Canadians in the context of politicians and political parties asking for their support. This is such a profound and important aspect of our health care system it deserves that attention."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he doubts a former provincial Liberal in the Kathleen Wynne government could design a plan to save money. 

He said a Conservative government would take steps to lower drug prices and improve access for those who can't afford it, addressing "gaps" in the system.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party was first to support a pharmacare plan and that the advisory council came to the same conclusion as every other expert panel in past.

The politics are inseparable from the medicine in this case, agreed Linda Silas, the president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. 

"Living in a democracy, we know everything is political will. It will depend the priorities that the parties make before October," she said. 

Silas has been advocating for this universal single-payer system for more than two decades. 

She said despite differences in political opinion, expert opinion has been clear for those two decades and the latest report just confirmed it. 

"They reiterated what research has been saying for years and years and years. It's time we get a national pharmacare program now."

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