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Seniors’ advocacy group outlines demands for changes to pharmacare program

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WATCH ABOVE: CARP Nova Scotia has outlined its demands to the Nova Scotia government over how the Pharmacare be changed. Global’s Legislative Reporter Marieke Walsh reports. – Feb 16, 2016

A national seniors advocacy group is calling for an overhaul of the changes to Nova Scotia’s seniors’ pharmacare program.

CARP’s Nova Scotia chapter is outlining seven changes that it wants made in advance of a meeting with government officials and other seniors’ advocacy groups on Wednesday morning.

The request is in response to changes the provincial Liberals announced to the program in January. At the time the changes were heralded as a revenue neutral adjustment that would see low income seniors paying less or not at all for pharmacare premiums, and higher income seniors paying more.

However, since the changes were announced the government has come under fire for almost tripling the premiums for some seniors to $1,200, asking some low-income couples to start paying a premium, and saying the changes were revenue neutral, when it appears they might not be.

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The controversy prompted the government to review the changes, and Premier Stephen McNeil apologized for the policy rollout at his state of the province speech on February 11.

“When we’re wrong, I’ll say we’re wrong. And that policy wasn’t rolled out the way it should have been,” McNeil said in his speech.

“It had a negative impact on certain citizens and I was wrong. And we will rectify it but we will do so in the roots of what we believe which was fair to those citizens.”

Given McNeil’s admission, CARP Nova Scotia says in an emailed statement it hopes the government will make changes to the new policy before its implemented in April. It’s asking for the government to do the following before moving ahead:

  1. Increase premiums gradually at a recommended rate of 5-10 per cent per year
  2. Raise the income level for those who are exempt from paying premiums to $24,500 per year
  3. Use the same formula to calculate premiums for couples and single people, rather than calculating couples at a higher premium
  4. Make seniors who are legitimately receiving the low-income Guaranteed Income Supplement exempt from paying premiums
  5. Implement an appeals process for seniors who think their premium is unfair
  6. Consult with seniors’ groups on the communication plan before rolling out the policy
  7. Give CARP Nova Scotia time to analyze the policy before it’s announced.

Wednesday’s meeting will be with the nine seniors’ advocacy groups that make up the province’s seniors’ advisory council. Deputy Health Minister Peter Vaughan and officials with the seniors’ pharmacare program are expected to be there.

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