The Liberal government’s advisory council on national pharmacare will release its final report today, setting the stage for an election campaign debate over prescription drug coverage in Canada.
Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s former health minister and chair of the advisory council, will release recommendations at a news conference in Ottawa starting at 11 a.m. ET. CBCNews.ca will carry it live.
In March, the council’s interim report recommended creating a new national arm’s-length agency to manage prescription medications, including negotiating prices and creating a formulary of approved, covered drugs.
It’s not clear what shape a proposed national pharmacare program might take under the Liberals.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said last February a new national program would be “fiscally responsible” and designed to fill in gaps, not provide prescription drugs for Canadians already covered by existing plans.
Speaking at the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa after the budget was released, Morneau said there’s a bulk of Canadians, including those who are self-employed, who don’t have drug coverage. Some parts of the system are working well, but others are not, he said.
“We need a strategy to deal with the fact not everyone has access, and we need to do it in a way that’s responsible, that deals with the gaps, but doesn’t throw out the system that we currently have.”
The NDP has said if it wins the October federal election, it will bring in a universal and comprehensive national pharmacare program in 2020.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his plan would cover every Canadian and save families an average of $500 a year. It would also save $4.2 billion a year in lower drug costs, he said.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report in 2017 forecasting a similar savings estimate.