Canada’s cities face a number of problems: traffic, housing, crime, infrastructure – the list goes on. Prescription drugs are one of these problems – one that is costing local governments as much as $500-million every year.
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.
Employers in Canada spend an estimated 5 billion dollars a year on drug coverage for their employees. Yet, private plans are notoriously inefficient and they often cover higher priced drugs that are not necessarily better for consumers’ health, explains Alan Cassels.