Talking about opting out of pharmacare is ‘premature,’ health minister says

Click to play video: 'Bloc Québécois MP questions whether Quebec can opt out of pharmacare plan'
Bloc Québécois MP questions whether Quebec can opt out of pharmacare plan
WATCH: Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Health Minister Mark Holland responded that the federal government was focused on increasing the quality of health care for Canadians, and that the objective can only be reached through the “spirit of co-operation.” – Feb 27, 2024

Health Minister Mark Holland says he’s excited about introducing pharmacare legislation, but that some are “jumping the gun” and raising “premature” worries after the NDP announced they have a deal on Friday.

This comes on the heels of the Alberta government saying it already intends to opt out of pharmacare, instead requesting its share of per capita funding in cash.

“Some people are jumping the gun and talking about what that is before it’s completed and that’s creating some confusion. So the first thing I would say is everybody needs to take a pause,” Holland said after the Tuesday cabinet meeting.

“For provinces to say whether or not they’re going to participate in something or not, when they don’t even know what it is, is a little premature.”

Click to play video: 'NDP’s Singh ‘not surprised’ Alberta intends to opt out of national pharmacare plan'
NDP’s Singh ‘not surprised’ Alberta intends to opt out of national pharmacare plan

On Friday, the NDP said they finalized a deal to legislate the framework for a pharmacare deal would include coverage for contraception and diabetes medication first, and work toward a single-payer system.

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A government source confirmed Friday that a deal had been reached, but declined comment on specifics as legislation hasn’t been introduced.

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On Sunday, a spokesperson from Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange’s office said Alberta was not consulted on the national pharmacare plan “and there are limitations in the initial analysis and assumptions, including start-up investment and administrative costs to implement a cost-sharing model, that were not taken into consideration that add costs for the provinces.”

Holland says that legislation will be tabled this week, meeting the deadline to get legislation before the House of Commons as outlined in the supply and confidence agreement.

Click to play video: 'Alberta says it’ll opt-out of national pharmacare deal'
Alberta says it’ll opt-out of national pharmacare deal

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh previously said that if the deadline was missed, he’d consider the agreement broken and the Liberals would not be able to rely on his party in confidence votes. The NDP would weigh support on a “vote-by-vote” basis, Singh had said.

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The health minister says he will be talking with his provincial and territorial counterparts about what is included in the forthcoming bill before introducing it so they can understand what the intentions are.

Holland says he would have preferred if news of the deal being reached hadn’t leaked out in order to avoid confusion about what the legislation will cover.

“So one of the things that I emphasized in my conversations, during the negotiations was I actually think it’s important that we not have leaked information in advance and not have this in a piecemeal kind of way, because I do think it creates some kind of confusion,” Holland said.

“I would have preferred to do that all at once, so that there wasn’t the confused state that we’re in right now. But you know, decisions were made and I respect that.”

With files from Global News’ Carolyn Kury de Castillo.

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