Lawmakers Have Role to Play in Pharmacare Debate Says Commentary

Feb 6, 2018


Could lawmakers’ access to publicly-funded medication coverage influence their public policy decisions about a fully government-subsidized pharmacare program? Some say yes.

Drs. Michael Taglione, Andrew Boozary and Nav Persaud of the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM), penned a commentary in the Preventive Medicine journal arguing that lawmakers may have a skewed view of pharmacare because of their access to publicly-funded medication coverage.

“Since the 1960’s, there have been many reports and recommendations to fund pharmacare publicly. Every single report has been favourable towards pharmacare. Reports get written, but policies don’t change,” says Dr. Nav Persaud, Assistant Professor at DFCM and physician at St. Michael’s Hospital. “Maybe we have to do something different. Maybe our lawmakers should voluntarily suspend their own publicly-funded medication until there is a vote to extend pharmacare to all. Otherwise, what else would help?”

Lawmakers’ drug coverage is publicly funded, and for some, their legislative assembly covers their full premium as it is the case in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut but approximately one in ten Canadians cannot afford to purchase their medication outright. One-third of working Canadians do not have employer-provided medical benefits and only 27 percent of part-time employees receive health benefits. Worse yet, prescription medications are the second highest health care cost in Canada and are 30 per cent more expensive than the international coverage.

“The commentary’s purpose is to promote a discussion with lawmakers about what they think and whether or not any of them agree that this is an issue. Ultimately, lawmakers are in the best place to change public policy in Canada and in each of its provinces and territories.”

The commentary references a similar study that was conducted in the United States. It determined that lawmakers with children in private schools were more ‘less likely’ to support legislation intended to strengthen public schools. This same phenomenon could be at play for medication access in Canada. 

“If they had the same coverage as everyone else, they would still likely be insulated since they have a higher income than most Canadians. But they would be more aware of the challenges associated with paying for medications.”

Later this year, Dr. Persaud will unveil results from his yearlong study that assesses the likelihood of a patient’s prescription fulfilment if given access to free medication. The study intends to inform policymakers about the ongoing developments with prescription fulfilment in Canada and encourage some change in pharmacare policy.


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