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Canada’s Pharmacare Bill Officially Tabled in Parliament – National | Globalnews.ca

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Health Minister Mark Holland introduced legislation Thursday afternoon to create the framework for a national single-payer pharmacare program.

This bill is a key part of the subsidy and confidence agreement under which the NDP supports the Liberals on confidence votes in exchange for advancing key priorities, including pharmacare.

In addition to a framework, the legislation includes coverage for contraception and diabetes medications, as well as devices like insulin pumps. For this to be implemented, Ottawa will first need to negotiate agreements with the provinces and territories to include these provisions in their medical systems.

“This is a historic day for Canadians,” said NDP health critic and pharmacare negotiator Don Davies on Thursday morning.

“This is the culmination of a dream that began when Tommy Douglass invented health care in Saskatchewan in the 1940s. It is the culmination of decades of hard work by New Democrats, Progressive Canadians and allied organizations.

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“This is a health equity issue. It’s also about affordability, making sure that someone who asks me, can I afford the contraception that I need to be able to control my future or do I have to pay the rent or the food ? In a time of inflation and global challenges, it’s about giving women control over their own bodies,” Holland said of media coverage of contraception.


Click to play video: “Introducing the Federal Pharmacare Bill”


Presentation of the federal bill on pharmacare


Regarding diabetes coverage, Holland said if people can’t afford medications like insulin, they are at greater risk of more serious health problems like stroke, amputation, blindness or kidney failure.

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“It’s just a matter of social justice. Imagine the cost this entails for our health system. And I don’t think that’s the kind of country we want to have. And that’s basically what we’re talking about today,” Holland said.

The minister said there was unlikely to be any money for the program in the 2024/25 budget. He hopes there will be spending this year, provided agreements are reached with the provinces to cover diabetes medications and contraception.

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Holland said that while he does not have a specific number, he estimates $1.5 billion for the program as is, but that is a moving target due to the need to negotiate 13 agreements with provinces and territories.

Regarding diabetes coverage, Joelle Walker of the Canadian Pharmacists Association told Global News she wonders why GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic are not covered under the plan.

“They are generally more expensive and are not necessarily first-line treatment. But with diabetic patients, we certainly know that they are complicated and very individualized. So I think having a bigger arsenal of tools in the pockets of prescribers and pharmacists will be really helpful,” she said.

Walker adds that she will be curious to see how negotiations with the provinces go, as there is currently no way for pharmacists to bill the federal government directly for drugs covered by the public plan.

The original deadline to introduce legislation was the end of 2023, but this was pushed back to the end of February. In exchange for this extension, the NDP insisted that coverage of contraception, such as birth control and emergency contraception, as well as diabetes medications be included in future implementation of insurance. drugs.

“Today we took the first major step toward universal, national pharmacare,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

The NDP first said it had reached an agreement on a single-payer pharmacare plan last Friday, and the government confirmed it.

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Click to play video: “B.C. diabetes patients await pharmacare details”


BC Diabetes Patients Wait for Pharmacare Details


On Sunday, Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said her province plans to opt out of a national program, instead seeking its share of per capita funding in cash.

Quebec also intends to withdraw from a national program because it already has a provincial drug insurance plan.

Singh said he is open to Quebec having its own drug insurance plan, provided there is no gap between the two programs.

In the meantime, he is calling on Alberta and other provinces to negotiate with Ottawa once legislation is passed to reach deals on contraception and diabetes coverage.

“There will be a number of provinces that are very keen to get started on this, but it’s very similar to how things started with our health system. At first many said no, they said no outright, then they saw many people getting free health care in their province,” Singh said.

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British Columbia already has universal contraceptive coverage. The Manitoba government is also working to implement contraception coverage, as promised during its election campaign.

During an unrelated news conference, reporters attempted to ask Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre if he would dismantle pharmacare if the Conservatives formed government. Poilievre did not specifically address the issue, only saying that “Justin Trudeau is not worth it” before walking away.

Officials say the cost of the program won’t be in place until agreements are negotiated with the provinces and territories.

In his remarks, Holland said the focus should not be on the final cost of the program, but on what it can save the health care system by ensuring people receive timely treatment and medications.

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