Editorial: Time for action on national pharmacare plan, and what about dental and vision care?

The report calls for a basic plan for essential medications by 2022, and comprehensive list by 2027

It’s time for action. Actually it’s past time.

For years politicians have batted around the idea of a national pharmacare plan to replace the patchwork of uneven coverage Canadians have now. Coverage is different in every province, with drugs covered or not covered depending on where you live. This can be a big problem for people with a variety of conditions should they want to, or need to, move from one province to another. And with every jurisdiction negotiating prices individually, we all pay a lot more, too, though in their last budget the federal Liberals pledged to create an agency to buy drugs in bulk to help cut medication costs.

A new report called “A Prescription for Canada: Achieving Pharmacare for All” recommends the move to a universal, single-payer, public system. The expert panel behind the report estimates a universal system will save approximately $5 billion, or about $350 per person per year.

The report also calls for a basic plan for essential medications by 2022, and a comprehensive list by 2027.

And here’s where it gets sticky. Three years until we see even a basic plan? And eight years until a full plan? Sounds like we’re just putting off doing anything so we can find some way to talk ourselves out of it, yet again. And that’s only if the government accepts the findings of the panel, and moves to implement them. Whenever we hear about governments kicking anything this far down the road, we get skeptical that it will ever come to pass. All too often governments are short-sighted (as in, they can’t see past the next election), and their ability to stick with a long-term project, even if the same political party remains in power, is dicey. It’s one of the biggest things wrong with how our governments tend to work: short-term results win over big picture.

So while it’s good to have this new report (even if it does tell us what we already knew), we’ll believe it when we see action.

And while a national pharmacare plan would be a big step in the right direction, there are other dire health needs that continue to go unaddressed in this country. One is dental care. The health of your teeth and mouth are key to your overall health, with repercussions on everything from your heart to your gut, and yet, unless you are on certain kinds of social assistance, everyone must pay out of their pocket. The result, of course, is that a lot of people can’t afford to pay, and must simply suffer. Tooth extractions and dentures should not be seen as optional. Then there’s vision care. This effects everything from your ability to drive to the ability to read. Once again. Not an extra.

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