McNeil government cancels controversial changes to seniors’ pharmacare

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WATCH ABOVE: The McNeil Government is stepping back from controversial changes made to the seniors Pharmacare program. Global’s Legislative Reporter Marieke Walsh reports – Feb 18, 2016

All but one of the planned changes to the provincial seniors’ pharmacare program have been put on hold indefinitely.

The seniors’ pharmacare program will operate under the rules that existed prior to the changes announced in January, according to a release sent from the health department Thursday.

However, one change will go ahead, meaning 12,000 more seniors won’t have to pay a premium anymore or will pay less than they did previously.

That change is expected to cost the province an additional $3 million per year.

Seniors receiving the guaranteed income supplement from the federal government will continue to be exempt from paying premiums. This automatic exemption was axed from the proposed new program announced in January, a change that was widely criticized.

The new program was heralded as a fair approach to ensuring low income seniors were paying less for pharmacare while seniors with higher incomes paid a bit more. However, when more details on the impact of the program were released it was criticized for treating seniors in couples unfairly, and raising costs for some low income seniors, among a slate of other concerns.

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Province-wide consultations with seniors will be held before the government decides on anymore changes, however no date has been set for the consultations.

“Seniors told us these changes were too much, too soon – our actions had unintended consequences,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a release.

The province announced the move just one day after a second round of meetings with the seniors’ advisory council.

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