On Wednesday,Andrea Horwath visited Peterborough to discuss her plan for Ontario’s first universal Pharmacare program, stopping at the YMCA to talk with participants of The Lung Association's Fitness for Breath program for people with chronic lung diseases.
“Many people in Peterborough go without the medications they need because they have been driven to the breaking point by costs that just keep going up, for everything from turning on the lights to paying for their mortgage and rent,” Horwath said.
“Families shouldn’t have to empty their wallets to get the medicine they need, and they should never, ever have to skip a medication because they can’t afford it. That’s why I’m committed to creating Ontario’s first universal Pharmacare program. It will mean lower costs, less worry, and better health for people right here in Peterborough.”
Horwath met with the team from the Fitness for Breath program, which helps people with serious lung diseases get healthy, and stay healthy. For some, medication is part of the equation to keep them healthier, prevent complications, and reduce the likelihood that they end up in hospital.
Horwath’s Pharmacare plan will cover medication – like that for high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and COPD – for everyone, regardless of age.
Existing programs for seniors’ drugs and high-cost drugs will also stay in place under Horwath’s plan.
Employers that offer prescription drug benefits to their staff will save as much as $1.9 billion.
“Seeing a doctor doesn’t mean much if you can’t afford the prescription you need,” said Horwath. “When people don’t take the medication they need, they end up in the ER. It can cost people their health, or even their lives.
“By creating a universal Pharmacare program for all Ontarians of all ages, we can save lives. We can relieve the pressure on hospitals. We can save money for families. Not only is this plan affordable – we can’t afford not to do it.”
Today, 2.2 million Ontarians have no prescription drug coverage at all. With a growing number of workers in unstable and non-traditional jobs in Ontario, the number of people not covered is expected to grow.
Dr. Steve Morgan, one of Canada’s leading researchers on Pharmacare, voiced his support for Horwath’s plan. “A program of this kind is a practical way of significantly improving access to medicines while dramatically lowering overall drug costs,” said Morgan. “Universal public coverage of essential medicines is a significant and feasible step in the right direction.”
The NDP and Pharmacare experts estimate the cost to be under $475 million – less than one-third of one per cent of the province’s total annual budget.