Monday, February 9, 2009

Time to pull a Quebec on drugs

I learned from a friend the other day that even with her and her ex-husband being on the Trillium Drug Plan -- the drug plan of last resort for the uninsurable in Ontario -- they pay well over $10,000 in prescriptions each and every year; nearly a third of their income.

This is Canada? Well, yeah ... but it's Ontario. Many provinces, like Manitoba and Nova Scotia for instance, have catastrophic plans as well but people are still getting hammered even if they "only" have to pay 20%, after a deductible which can run anywhere from 3 to 20% of net income.

Curses they aren't living in Québec which has a pay or pay system of compulsory drug insurance -- if you don't have it as part of your benefits, you are automatically in the government plan. Regardless of if you're public or private, the most you pay for drugs (presuming they're in the formulary, and there are about 5000 of them) for the entire year is $1497 -- a premium of up to $570 (based on net family income) plus $927 in co-payments. Is it expensive to operate? Yes. Does it ensure healthier results and get people to get drugs they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford? Absolutely. And that lowers health care costs in the long term.

There are a few catches: Some drugs do require an extra contribution by the patient (to cover the difference between the manufacturer's price and what the government is willing to pay) but it is still way less expensive than paying the whole amount out of pocket. As well, you do have to cover the difference if you insist on a brand-name drug and a generic of equivalent efficacy is available.

Be that as it may, imagine how much of a burden would be lifted off everyone's shoulders if everyone in Canada had access to something like that. Least of which is that people with limited incomes could be freed from their burdens and be allowed to spend their resources elsewhere.

How about it, "New" Steve? How about a real drug plan as your legacy?

If Pharmacare is good enough for Québec and for British Columbia (which has a less generous but still viable universal plan) it is certainly good enough for the entire country of Canada. This, along with accessible day care, should be the among the next planks in our social safety net.

UPDATE (6:30 am EST, 1130 GMT): In case you were wondering, what I wrote at the top is not a misprint -- I did say the woman's ex; they live in opposite units of the same duplex and share both halves with their still growing children, and while both work neither have group insurance. So their kids get hammered too. All the more reason to have public drug insurance.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

No comments: