Trudeau Government Signals It Will Soon Announce Pharmacare Plan

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is signaling it could soon announce funding for a pharmacare program, as it looks to help reduce the billions paid out-of-pocket for prescription drugs.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Finance Minister Bill Morneau spoke Wednesday in Toronto after a government pharmacare advisory council delivered an interim report on a potential system to subsidize certain drug coverage.

The panel recommended creating the “building blocks” for an actual pharmacare program. While there was no announcement, the ministers left little doubt they plan to unveil some kind of pharmacare program.

“We must complete the dream of medicare by finally finding its missing piece, and that missing piece is pharmacare,” Petitpas Taylor said. “Canadians should not have to choose between paying for prescriptions and putting food on the table.”

Morneau said he would not give any hints of whether the upcoming federal budget, due for release on March 19, would include funding for such a program, but joined Petitpas Taylor in stressing the importance of doing something.

“We know that Canadians expect us to deal with what we see as the unfinished business of the Canadian healthcare system, making sure that all Canadians have access to what we know is a critical part of our healthcare system: pharmacare,” Morneau said.

Morneau has previously said he’s looking at something that “doesn’t throw out the system we currently have.” Canada’s budget watchdog has estimated that Canadians pay about C$3.6 billion ($2.7 billion) out-of-pocket for drugs, with government plans and private insurance covering about C$21 billion in annual costs.

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