Stephen Frank, President and CEO, Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association
The Canadian life and health insurance industry welcomes the renewed focus on finding a way to ensure that all Canadians can get access to affordable prescription drugs. We strongly support the need for comprehensive reform so that Canadians can have access to medicines and, equally importantly, Canada’s prescription drug system is put back on a secure financial footing for the foreseeable future.
Canada’s life and health insurers believe that changes to the current system should build on the many existing strengths in both the public and private systems for the benefit of all Canadians. It makes sense that the best system is one that will: ensure that patients have access to the medicines they need at affordable prices; control costs to taxpayers; and ensure Canadians do not lose their existing group health benefit plans.
Public and private benefit plans already provide the vast majority of Canadians with access to prescription drug coverage. This includes over 25 million Canadians who currently have excellent private benefit coverage. Health benefit plans provide more than just affordable prescription drug coverage. They also provide critical support to allow Canadians to access needed dental services, supplementary hospital care, medical devices and equipment, vision care, paramedical services (e.g., chiropractic, massage therapy, physiotherapy, psychology) and short- and long-term disability.
We also know that the costs of prescription drugs in Canada are too high for many and continue to grow at an unsustainable rate. Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for their medications. For that reason, our industry believes that the federal government is on the right track with the proposed regulatory changes to the federal agency that regulates the prices of patented medications. Canada needs a comprehensive reform of our existing system – a reform that ensures Canadians can access the medications they need, that medication coverage is affordable for taxpayers and does not put health benefit plans at risk. The federal government’s announcement of the creation of an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National
Pharmacare, which will be working closely with experts to complete an economic and social assessment of domestic and international pharmacare models, is an important step forward. The council has an opportunity to do something important for Canadians and to propose a way forward for the benefit of everyone. The industry is excited by this new momentum and looks forward to participating in and contributing to this national discussion.
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