Among my duties in Parliament, I have the privilege of serving on the standing committee on health.
Our current project on the health committee is the study of how a national Pharmacare system might be established. This is an issue that impacts you, as Canadians, and as my constituents.
Canada’s Medicare system is one of our most treasured national institutions. Although there have been problems identified in our system, most Canadians would agree that universal health care is a fundamental right of all Canadians. Among the world’s nations with a universal health care system, Canada is unique in that medications (prescribed outside of a hospital setting) are not included in coverage for all citizens.
The factors of how a universal Pharmacare system could be established are complicated. The main challenge, of course, is economic. Estimates vary as to how much of a public economic investment would be required to provide universal medication coverage. What is even less clear is whether the costs of investing in Pharmacare would be offset by savings to the health care system by improving health through improved medication access.
As an example, one which I have seen many times in the emergency department, there are people with diabetes who require insulin, but have trouble affording it. When a diabetic does not take insulin for several days, they develop a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is a life-threatening emergency. These patients present to the emergency department critically ill, and require a complicated treatment regimen, and sometimes have to be admitted to the intensive care unit. A hospital admission for this condition costs thousands of dollars to the health care system. One might argue that if that patient had simply been supplied insulin throughout their lifetime, this would have cost the health care system less than that one hospital admission. When one adds the long-term costs, inadequate diabetes treatment (such as heart disease, blindness, dialysis), the potential cost savings of supplying patients with insulin become even more apparent.
However, examples are not the same as data.
This is why the health committee is interviewing witnesses from various fields, including physicians, public health advocates, and economic experts. We will also study the systems of other nations that have universal Pharmacare, to determine how they are able to operate a cost-effective system.
I am very excited to be part of this important project. If any constituents of Charleswood - St. James - Assiniboia - Headingley have any ideas on Pharmacare, or any issue, that they wish to share with me, please contact my office (at 204-984-6432 or Doug.Eyolfson@parl.gc.ca). I’d love to hear from you.