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CLHIA says public plans and insurer-based private plans should work together to expand access to prescription drugs

By The IJ Staff | June 13 2019 11:30AM

Stephen Frank | Photo: Réjean Meloche

In reaction to the recommendation by an advisory council for the implementation of national pharmacare, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association urged the federal government to move forward with steps that will expand access to prescription medicines for those who need it without putting private plans at risk.

“We believe there is an achievable and affordable path forward that ensures all Canadians are able to access the medications they need without putting at risk what’s working today,” Stephen Frank, CLHIA’s President and CEO said. “In our view, government plans and insurer-based plans should cooperate to negotiate lower drug prices for all Canadians. We also support a minimum standard list of drugs that all plans, whether public or private, should meet or exceed so there is more consistency across Canada and that existing gaps in coverage are closed.”

The CLHIA says the insurance industry supports the measures announced in the 2019 federal budget including the creation of a new Canadian Drug Agency and the funds that have been earmarked to improve access to high cost drugs for rare diseases.

However, the association underlined that more than 25 million Canadians access prescription medicines through workplace health benefit plans. “These plans provide thousands of pharmaceuticals that even the most generous public plans do not provide.” The CLHIA estimates that 7.7 million Canadians would risk losing access to drugs for cancer, pain management, depression and diabetes if their private plan was replaced by even the most comprehensive government-run public plan.

“Canadians need to be able to afford the medicines they’ve been prescribed. Together, public and private plans can help those who are without coverage and those that struggle with catastrophic drug costs,” Frank said. He added that this kind of collaboration could achieve the goals of national pharmacare without incurring the kinds of costs envisioned in the Advisor Council’s report estimated at $15 billion.

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