Universal pharmacare

For the over 20% of Canadians with inadequate coverage, universal pharmacare would mean not having to sacrifice other necessities

4 April 2022

Pharmacist standing in front of shelves of medication

Did you know that Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that does not provide universal coverage for prescription drugs? Prescription drug coverage varies depending on which province you live in and from person to person. Here are some facts:

Canada has been examining universal pharmacare for decades and five separate national commissions have recommended that medically necessary prescription drugs be included in Canada’s universal, public health insurance system. The most recent report, A Prescription for Canada: Achieving Pharmacare for All outlines how it can be achieved and financed, even suggesting universal pharmacare could reduce total annual prescription expenditures by $4.2 billion. It also went on to say that “removing out of pocket costs for the medications used to treat just three health problems—diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory conditions—would result in up to 220,000 fewer emergency room visits and 90,000 fewer hospital stays annually. This has the potential to save the health care system up to $1.2 billion a year—just for those three diseases.”

What’s also important is that it could benefit employers. Research from the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto concluded that private citizens and corporations could save more than $8 billion with universal pharmacare, with the average business owner who provides drug coverage saving over $750 annually per employee. For small businesses, many of which cannot afford drug benefits for their employees, pharmacare should make it easier to recruit and retain employees and maintain a healthy workforce.

It's no wonder that nine out of ten Canadians support the idea of a national pharmacare program with 77% saying it should be a high priority for government.

We’re pleased to see the federal government making a commitment to move on national pharmacare and we’ll be eagerly awaiting further details in the coming year.


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This article originally appeared in the E4A newsletter. Get the latest information on poverty in Calgary.