Thursday, August 21, 2008

CMA chief: Medicare not universal without coverage of prescriptions.

Dr. Ouellet makes a valid enough point. He might also argue that it is not universal if long term care for the elderly is not included, or dental care is not included, or glasses, and on and on. The Canadian system is much less universal than many other countries such as Norway. There are provincial plans that include some form of help paying for prescriptions but nothing national. It is great that Ouellet stresses the importance of pharmacare. However, given his penchant for advancing the role of the private sector it would be nice if he told us exactly what his pharmacare plan would look like. It seems as if he would use Quebec as a model but the article does not set out what that plan is like. Anyway it would be best if it were part of a national model.

Medicare not universal without coverage of prescriptions, new CMA head says
Greatly expanded private delivery of care also needed, Ouellet says
August 21, 2008
MONTREAL -- Canada's medicare system cannot truly be considered universal until it starts providing access to prescription drugs regardless of a patient's ability to pay, the new president of the Canadian Medical Association says.
"If access to diagnosis is universal, why isn't access to drugs?" Robert Ouellet asked yesterday in his inaugural address.
"The current health system is universal only in half-measures. If we were diagnosing the problem, we would say it suffers from hemianopsia" - blindness in half the visual field.
At least 600,000 Canadians - nearly all of them in Atlantic Canada - have no drug coverage at all. Another six million people have inadequate drug coverage - meaning basic treatments for common conditions such as diabetes pose a serious financial hardship.
Canadians spent $20.6-billion on prescription drugs last year, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Dr. Ouellet noted that Quebec is the only province with a universal prescription drug plan and urged other provinces to follow suit.
"Why reinvent the wheel? Instead, we should be looking at how this program could be applied elsewhere in Canada," he told delegates to the CMA's 141st annual conference.
Kaaren Neufeld, president of the Canadian Nurses Association, praised Dr. Ouellet for raising the issue and said she hopes it rekindles political discussion on the necessity of pharmacare.
"The CMA is strongly supportive of pharmacare and so is the CNA. We know how important this is for our patients," she said.

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