Statistics Canada is examining the gaps in prescription drug insurance coverage in a new study, entitled Exploring gaps in prescription drug insurance coverage among men and women in Canada using an intersectional lens.

The report finds that many Canadians – roughly 79 per cent – have some type of access to prescription drug insurance but the level of coverage can vary widely across benefits plans, impacting Canadians’ ability to fill prescriptions and adhere to healthcare provider recommendations.” The study, they say, confirms that cost-related non-adherence was highest among those with either no insurance plan or a government-sponsored plan. It was lowest for those with access to employer-sponsored and private plans.

The report looks at the four types of drug insurance coverage (government, employer and association-sponsored plans, along with private drug insurance plans) disaggregated by socioeconomic, demographic and geographical factors and also disaggregated by type of drug insurance plans being accessed.

“Overall, employer-sponsored drug insurance plans were the most common form of insurance coverage among Canadians, with 55 per cent of the population in 2019 having this type of coverage. This was followed by government sponsored plans (accessed by 21 per cent of the population), private plans (six per cent) and association-sponsored plans (accessed by five per cent of the population). They say seniors, people with chronic conditions and low-income earners are the most likely to have government-sponsored plans. They add that more women than men skipped filling prescription drugs during the study period because of costs.

“Despite Canadians’ need for prescription medications, Canada remains the only country that offers universal health care without universal coverage for prescription drugs. As a result, 7.5 million Canadians—or one in five—remain uninsured and pay out-of-pocket for prescription medications,” the report states, adding that Canada has one of the highest rates of cost-related medication non-adherence when compared with peer countries.