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N.B. Drug Plan continues to draw criticism

MONCTON, N.B. – A poverty awareness group says the New Brunswick government needs to make a better effort to inform people of looming extra drug costs.

Jean-Claude Basque, of the Common Front for Social Justice, says the newly-elected Liberal Government needs to remind the public that changes are coming.

“They don’t know it’s coming up next April and it’s going to be mandatory,” he said.

Under the new plan, the provincial government is making it mandatory for people with no health insurance to pay into a provincial drug plan.

The payments are intended to help cover drug costs, but under the new plan, the rates increase with pay.

For example, individuals earning a gross income of $26,360 or less will pay $67/month. Individuals earning more than $75,001 will have to pay an increased rate at $167/month.

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Chantal Landry is one of the people who will have to pay into the drug plan, and while she understands people need the plan, she feels people should have the choice of whether or not to pay into it.

“I would have to pay of whatever I make every month for this plan that I may not even use,” she said.

Basque says individuals shouldn’t be left to shoulder the cost.

“The real solution is for the plan to be absorbed by general revenue so the premium would be paid by our tax dollars so it wouldn’t be any added costs to individuals,” he said.

Small businesses are also worried about the plan’s impact.

Sharon Joseph runs Black Tie Bistro in Riverview and says the new rules force her to either raise her wages or pay into a group health insurance plan.

“I would have to bring in a private one or raise their pay in order to make it worth their while,” she said. “The other thing the government can consider is making it a bank type of program where individuals pay in later on in life if they need the drugs or assistance that money can be used towards that.”

The newly-elected Liberal Government says its reviewing the plan and are hoping to complete a report in the next few weeks.

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