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Bill Kelly: Why Canada needs a national pharmacare program

Pharmacist Denis Boissinot checks a bottle on a shelf at his pharmacy on March 8, 2012, in Quebec City.
Pharmacist Denis Boissinot checks a bottle on a shelf at his pharmacy on March 8, 2012, in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

A new study from the University of British Columbia presents the best case yet for the implementation of a national pharmacare program.

According to the study, 731,000 Canadians across the country have had to borrow money to pay for prescription medications. That’s not supposed to happen in a country as prosperous as Canada, but we need to wake up to that stark reality.

READ MORE: Canada’s health ministers talk pharmacare, rising costs of services

Many people with ongoing medical conditions requiring medication are having to choose between filling the prescription or buying groceries or paying rent and utility bills.

Some people in that predicament stop taking the medication, but they run the risk of getting sicker, and that can lead to hospitalization, permanent disability or even death.

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READ MORE: National pharmacare plan will take burden off private employers

National pharmacare plan will take burden off private employers
National pharmacare plan will take burden off private employers

This dilemma affects all age demographics, but the most severely impacted are young people, who tend to have lower incomes and, in this age of precarious employment, no health insurance.

The federal government has been kicking around the idea of a universal pharmacare program, but anytime the issue has come up in the past, it’s usually dismissed as too expensive.

But, the question isn’t, “Can we afford to implement universal pharmacare?” It’s, “Can we afford not to?”

For many Canadians, a national prescription drug plan is not a perk, it’s a matter of life and death.

Bill Kelly is the host of the Bill Kelly Show on Global News Radio 900 CHML.