Albertans need a pharmacare program that ensures everyone has access to affordable and safe prescription drugs, but the Conservative government's approach to the issue is flawed, says Friends of Medicare.
"We are encouraged that the government recognizes that many Albertans have trouble getting the medication they need. There are too many financial barriers preventing seniors and chronically ill Albertans from obtaining medications that keep them functional and out of hospital," says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. "However, the government's recent announcement of its plans for a pharmacare program is following a familiar pattern of announcing a major health program without providing meaningful details and without consulting the expert opinions of stakeholders, including Friends of Medicare or advocacy groups for patients and seniors."
"We are being asked to accept the program on faith with little information on how the program will work. If we have learned anything from recent experiences with this government, it is that 'drug coverage for all' is misleading. This is reminiscent of the government's previous Pharmaceutical Strategy of 2008, which led to the creation of the seniors' drug program, which offloaded $20 million of government costs onto the backs of Alberta seniors. The big winner was the insurance industry, not Albertans," said Azocar.
"Albertans want a pharmacare program that will provide the necessary treatments to people based on their medical needs, not on their ability to pay. They understand universality is a key principle of health care and that prescription drugs are a vital component of health care. Giving people access to the medications they need saves money by preventing health problems or speeding recovery from health problems."
"Like other areas of health care, there is no room for income testing or means-testing as a barrier to preventing people getting the drugs they need. An income-based pharmacare program will once again leave many middle-income Albertans in a position where they find it difficult to get access to medically essential drugs," says Azocar.
"Friends of Medicare strongly encourages the Minister of Health to engage in high-level planning that must include discussion among all stakeholders. Albertans understand that 'doing things differently' requires transparency and accountability. Let's not make the same mistakes again. Let's move ahead together on creating a pharmacare program that works for all Albertans."
Sandra Azocar, Executive Director
Friends of Medicare