Parliament Video: Jenny in the House: Put the needs of Canadians ahead of big pharma & vote for the Canada Pharmacare Act

On February 4th, Jenny stood in the House to give a speech on Pharmacare:

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Mr. Speaker, Canada is the only country in the world with a universal health care system that does not provide universal prescription drug coverage outside of hospitals. People in Canada pay among the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs due to our patchwork of 100 public and over 100,000 private drug plans. As a result, we lack purchasing power and many Canadians do not get access to drug coverage. The Liberals have promised universal pharmacare for Canadians decade after decade, and there is still no universal pharmacare.

The NDP tabled the Canada pharmacare act in February 2020. Immediately following the last election, the NDP began working to draft a legislative framework to enable the implementation of a universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare program. It is based on the recommendations of the Hoskins Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, and modelled on the Canada Health Act. The proposed Canada pharmacare act specifies the conditions and criteria that the provincial and territorial prescription drug insurance programs must meet to receive federal funding. This includes the core principles of public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility. Universal public drug coverage has been recommended by commissions, committees and advisory councils dating as far back as the 1940s.

People across Canada are making impossible choices every day because they cannot afford their prescription medications. Millions of Canadians have inadequate prescription coverage or no coverage at all. Sixteen per cent of people in Canada have gone without medication for heart disease, cholesterol or hypertension because of the cost. Over the past year alone, one in four Canadians was forced to avoid filling or renewing a prescription drug due to its cost, or to take measures to extend a prescription because they could not afford to keep the recommended dosage schedule.

Even those with private coverage are seeing their employer-sponsored benefits shrink, a trend that has accelerated due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. In fact, Canadians are twice as likely to have lost prescription drug coverage as to have gained it over the past year. The amount of prescription drugs spending paid out of pocket in Canada in 2016 was $7.4 billion. Universal public pharmacare would extend prescription drug coverage to every single Canadian while saving us billions of dollars every year. The final report of the Hoskins advisory council found that once fully implemented, universal public pharmacare would reduce annual system-wide spending on prescription drugs by $5 billion. Businesses and employees would see a benefit to the tune of $16.6 billion annually for businesses, and families would see their out-of-pocket drug costs reduced by $6.4 billion per year, collectively.

I ask the members to support this bill. Over 13,000 academic experts in the health care and public policy community support this. It is time for us to act. It is time to put the needs of Canadians ahead of big pharma."

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