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Single-payer pharmacare could reduce patient access to drugs, say insurers

Dr. Eric Hoskins, Chair of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, is accompanied by Vincent Dumez, Member of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

TORONTO — The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says millions of people could risk losing access to certain drugs under even the most comprehensive government-run pharmacare plan.

The industry association’s comments came in response to an expert panel’s recommendation that Canada should have a single-payer national pharmacare plan to cover every Canadian.

The advisory council, tasked by the federal government to look into the issue, today called on Ottawa to work with the provinces and territories to create a national plan to replace the current patchwork of private and public prescription drug plans and save taxpayers an estimated $5-billion annually.

The CLIHIA’s CEO Stephen Frank, however, says government plans and insurer-based plans should co-operate to negotiate lower drug prices for all Canadians.

The industry association says private workplace health-benefit plans provide thousands of pharmaceuticals not provided by public plans and an estimated 7.7 million Canadians could risk losing access to drugs for conditions such as cancer, depression and diabetes.

Meanwhile, an analyst with the National Bank of Canada Financial Markets says a government-funded pharmacare program would displace private insurance plans offering prescription drug benefits, and take a bite out of insurers’ profits.

The Canadian Press