The Prentice government announced that it will restore the use of healthcare taxes so that Albertans can directly contribute to the healthcare system. On the surface, levying up to $1000 per person earning over $50,000 per year to contribute approximately $0.5 billion over two years towards an $18 billion medical treatment system sounds reasonable.
Repeatedly over the past 50 years, national commissions and inquiries have recommended that Canadian medicare include universal, public coverage of prescription drugs. So far, no government has acted on this, creating profound inequities and inefficiencies in our health care system. But more than that: the lack of universal pharmacare is bad for Canadian businesses, large and small.
A new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal with health economist Steve Morgan as lead author argues a national universal care drug program would not result in substantial tax increases. Indeed, such a plan reduces public and private spending on prescription drugs by $7.3 billion annually – or by 32 percent.
Ontario spends $11-billion per year on prescription drugs. Nearly half of this is spent on medicines used by senior citizens, a group that receives public subsidies for nearly all of their prescription drug costs in Ontario.