In the years before the creation of universal healthcare, New Democrats saw people suffer because they could not afford the care they needed. We have seen others lose their homes, farms, and businesses to pay their medical bills. We have seen entire families devastated by disease.
In response to this grim reality, the New Democrats have led the battle for a public system of universal health care, for the benefit of all people. Health insurance has profoundly changed the lives of millions of people. It is one of the pride of the New Democrats.
Decades later, we still see today that the inaccessibility and high cost of health care is still taking its toll. As we work together to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, we see proof that our healthcare system is on the brink of collapse.
Millions of families still do not have access to the medicines they need because they do not have private drug insurance from their employer. The number of uninsured people who are forced to go without their medication is increasing; more people are contract workers, self-employed, or have jobs without medical coverage. Too many seniors are also putting their health at risk because they cannot have drug insurance or the means to pay out of pocket.
The stress and worry felt by too many Canadians is no accident. These are the direct impacts of deliberate choices made by Liberal and Conservative governments. They have deliberately let drug companies defraud patients and choose to let millions of uninsured or underinsured people pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars out of their own pockets for much-needed drugs.
Today, Canada is the only wealthy country with a publicly funded health care system that does not include universal drug insurance. We are the third highest priced prescription drug in the world, straining our health systems across the country. And we also have to contend with a disparate set of programs and private protections – for those fortunate enough to have insurance coverage. In the face of a global pandemic, the need for a strong pan-Canadian drug insurance program has never been greater.
For ten years, instead of tackling the rising costs of drug insurance, the Conservatives made the problem worse, cutting funding to provincial health care systems and undermining efforts aimed at a pan-Canadian approach to drug insurance. The Liberal government, meanwhile, has spent six years postponing the issue by promising to reduce drug costs, while continuing to apply the same system that does not work for us, and is costing us more and more. Three times it has delayed major changes that would have lowered drug prices in Canada because drug companies asked it to do so. And the Liberals’ 2021 budget confirms that they have given up on their commitment altogether, just when Canadians need it most.
New Democrats know we can do better. Our party fought for the universal health care system for everyone, and in the same way, we are fighting today to include quality drug insurance for everyone, regardless of your job, your place of residence, age, state of health or income. We will work quickly, with the provinces, to get the program in place by the end of 2022, injecting $ 10 billion annually from the federal government. This will go hand in hand with the development of a pan-Canadian strategy on drug coverage for rare diseases, so that coverage is no longer determined by where you live or by your family’s private insurance, such as is currently the case.
A pan-Canadian drug insurance program will allow access to essential drugs and medical devices, just as we currently have access to health centers offering free care, because they are funded by an insurance system public under which everyone is covered. At the pharmacy, therefore, you will need your health insurance card – not your credit card. Our plan ends co-payments, deductibles and bonuses that cost families hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year.
Making prescription drugs more affordable saves everyone money. Seniors, families and young people get a break. Small businesses that want to cover the cost of drugs can do so. Negotiating prices with big pharmaceutical companies drives prices down – saving money in our health care system, improving care.
Our plan will ensure access to the medicine people here need. It will translate into significant savings for employers who currently pay for employee benefits, helping to recognize their efforts and spur economic growth. Pooling the purchasing power of all provinces will reduce the overall costs of our health care system, freeing up much-needed funds to reinvest in health.
Our drug insurance plan thus pursues the goal of a country where people are healthier and where no one will have to make an impossible choice between their medications and other essential needs, such as shelter and to feed.