As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shine a light on Canada’s health-care system — and put pressure on the finances of people who have lost work — a new poll suggests the vast majority of Canadians support a national pharmacare program.
Almost nine in 10 Canadians (86 per cent) support the idea of a national pharmacare plan and 77 per cent say the government should put a high priority on increasing prescription drug coverage.
The survey was conducted by Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of British Columbia, Carleton University, St. Michael’s Hospital and University of Toronto and Women’s College Toronto.
The widespread support for pharmacare comes amid the pandemic’s financial strain. A third of Canadians fear they won’t be able to financially recover from the pandemic, according to a separate survey by FP Canada, an industry licensing group for financial planners.
WATCH: NDP to table national pharmacare bill (Jan. 2020). Story continues below.
The Angus Reid poll indicated that almost a quarter of Canadians (23 per cent) decided not to fill or renew a prescription because of the cost, or have taken measures to extend a prescription because they couldn’t afford to take doses as regularly as recommended.
More Canadians, 14 per cent, have lost prescription drug coverage over the past year, as opposed to seven per cent who gained it.
A quarter of Canadians (26 per cent) also said they’ve had to pay half or more of the cost of their prescription drug costs in the past year. That number rises to 37 per cent for households earning less than $50,000 per year.
One-quarter of Canadians (24 per cent) reported feeling confident that they will always be able to afford prescription drugs, whereas 44 per cent said they’re concerned about being able to afford prescription drugs in 10 years.
A number of Canadian health-care providers and nonprofits released a statement after the 2019 federal election, calling for immediate implementation of universal, public pharmacare.
The federal government indicated in its 2019 budget that it would “move forward on three foundational elements of national pharmacare”:
A national drug agency that would negotiate prescription drug prices, which the feds said would lower the cost by up to $3 billion annually;
A national, evidence-based list of prescription drugs;
And a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases.
“These measures mark important first steps on the way to a system that helps all Canadians get the prescription drugs they need to stay healthy, and contribute to their families, their communities, and our economy,” the budget reads.
The 2020 budget was delayed because of the pandemic.
A federal advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare released a final report in June 2019, which said national pharmacare in Canada “is long overdue.”
It recommended the feds work with provinces and territories to establish a single-payer prescription drug coverage system that is universal, covers a range of treatments, accessible, portable for Canadians who move within the country and publicly funded.
The council also recommended Canadians be allowed to purchase private insurance to supplement national, public pharmacare coverage, and that Canadians who receive social assistance or other certain government benefits be exempt from copayments.
The Angus Reid Institute survey was conducted online from Oct. 13-18 and included a sample of 1,936 Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.