Budget 2019: New national pharmacare plan announced

Mar 19 2019, 7:58 pm

The Government of Canada has unveiled its 2019 federal budget.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau tabled his fourth budget at the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon.

“Nearly four years ago, Canadians chose a plan that invested in the things that matter most to them: good, well-paying jobs; more help for families with the high cost of living; strong, connected communities; and better opportunities for our children and grandchildren,” said Morneau, in a statement.

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“These are Canadians’ priorities, and they are ones our government shares. Budget 2019 is the next step in our plan to invest in the middle class and build a strong economy that works for the middle class—and for all Canadians.”

This year’s budget takes the next steps towards helping workers gain skills, making homeownership more affordable for first-time buyers, and giving all Canadians access to high-speed internet.

Budget 2019 also includes the government’s commitment to advance reconciliation Indigenous Peoples, through new measures to help improve the quality of life for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada.

One of the ways the federal government is moving to help Canadians with the cost of prescription drugs is by taking steps to what it’s calling a national pharmacare plan.

Starting with creating a new Canadian Drug Agency, the feds say that this could lower Canadians’ drug costs by as much as $3 billion per year, while developing a national formulary for prescription drugs, and a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases.

Budget 2019 proposes to provide Health Canada with $35 million over four years, starting in 2019–20, to establish a Canadian Drug Agency Transition Office to support the development of this vision.

According to Morneau’s speech, this agency could use its “bulk buying power” to negotiate better prescription drug prices on behalf of Canadians.

“This would help individual Canadians—such as seniors—and their families afford the medicines they need. It would support the sustainability of the drug plans they rely on today, and pave the way for national pharmacare tomorrow,” he said.

It would also help Canadians access prescription drugs wherever they live.

Morneau also added that it would “help Canadians with rare diseases access the drugs they need, we will take steps to help make some of the most expensive drugs more accessible—through a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases.”

Prescription drug spending in Canada has risen dramatically over the last three decades, according to the feds, going from $2.6 billion in 1985 to $33.7 billion in 2018.

This year’s budget claims that “Canada’s current patchwork of drug coverage— which includes more than 100 public programs and 100,000 private insurance plans—is not well equipped to handle increasingly expensive drugs coming to market.”

The feds say they will work with provinces and territories, and other partners, on this and will be receiving the Advisory Council’s final report, due later this spring.

“Our publicly funded, universal medicare system is a source of pride for Canadians—and a source of strength for our country,” said Morneau. “It’s a legacy we are building on with this budget, as we move toward national pharmacare for all Canadians.”