April 1, 2019 2:07 pm
Updated: April 1, 2019 5:02 pm

Federal NDP rolls out Pharmacare Plan nearly 6 months before expected federal election date

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks to reporters after the tabling of the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 19, 2019.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
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Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has introduced his Pharmacare Plan, a signature part of his party’s upcoming election platform. Singh says the plan will save Canadian families, on average, more than $500 a year, whether they have insurance or not.

“When you go into a pharmacy, you should not have to use your credit card, you should be able to use your health card,” Singh said.

“It is going to take us standing up against pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies.”

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READ MORE: Canada’s national pharmacare should include a national drug agency and formulary: report

The announcement on Monday marks the launch of a new website.

The NDP says the Parliamentary Budget Officer has projected that the total cost of a national pharmacare program would be $23.7 billion in 2020.  Under the NDP’s plan, the federal government share of the program will be $10 billion per year.

Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that doesn’t cover medication. The plan is projecting a savings of $4.2 billion in prescription costs across Canada.

According to numbers provided by the NDP, nearly 2 million Canadians didn’t fill a prescription last year because they couldn’t afford it. On top of that, one in five Canadians has no drug coverage at all.

WATCH: Federal Budget 2019: No pharmacare but drug agency creation included

“We can’t afford not to do this. It is costing us so much that we don’t have a national plan,” Singh said. “If we pooled all the money being spent right now, we could provide coverage for everyone for less. We have the means to do it, we just need to have the courage and the wills to do it.”

Singh says the plan would be broad and cover a wide range of medications and ‘would be done in the broadest way possible.’

Joining Singh at the announcement on Monday was Burnaby mom Marilyn Sheehan.

WATCH (aired Jan. 4, 2019): NDP government announces prescription costs relief for low-income families

“Like any parent, our kids come first. We can’t afford my husband’s heart medication, so we’re rolling the dice. Canadians need universal, public Pharmacare. Our income shouldn’t dictate our access to medicine,” Sheehan said.

The federal government is in the midst of looking at the national Pharmacare issue. The Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare is expected to present a report to the government this spring.

An interim report introduced in March recommended that national Pharmacare should include the creation of a national drug agency with a comprehensive, evidence-based formulary.

READ MORE: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh outlines pharmacare plan, won’t say how he’d pay for it

The council identified three major challenges facing Canada with regard to prescription drug coverage. First, as many as one in five Canadians have trouble paying for prescription drugs, according to the report.

“Canadians should not have to choose between paying for medications and putting food on the table,” said Health Minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor when the interim report was released.

The advisory council also found that drug coverage varies considerably across the country, as well as depending on people’s age, employer and medical condition. “The Council heard from families with seriously ill children who moved across Canada solely to benefit from another province’s more generous public drug plan,” reads the report.

The report notes that the cost of Pharmacare has ballooned over several decades, increasing from $2.6 billion in 1985 to $34 billion in 2018.

— with files from Leslie Young

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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