National Pharmacare Coming Soon

April 24, 2024

On February 29, 2024, the federal government introduced Bill C-64, the Pharmacare Act, to Parliament. It lays out the principles for the first phase of a national universal pharmacare in Canada. This is not in place yet, but we’d like to tell you what we know about it so far.

What is a national pharmacare plan?

A national pharmacare plan is a single-payer plan that provides prescription drugs covered under the plan free of charge. For those drugs, there would be no deductibles or co-payments.

Who would be covered?

Everyone! Anyone with a health card would be able to access the national pharmacare program. It doesn’t matter if you have a health plan through work, such as your GreenShield Canada health benefits; you would still be covered.

Why have a national pharmacare plan?

The Pharmacare Act is expected to improve health equity, affordability and health outcomes. It has the potential of long-term savings to the health-care system, since many people who can’t afford much-needed medication end up costing the system more when their conditions worsen.

What would be covered?

In the first phase, the single-payer plan would cover a number of contraception and diabetes medications. The program is expected to be expanded over time to cover other drugs, assuming phase 1 is successful.

Why does the first phase focus on contraception and diabetes?

There are approximately nine million Canadians of reproductive age. With better access to contraception, people can reduce the risk of unintended pregnancies and improve their ability to plan for the future. Cost has consistently been the biggest barrier to access, a cost unevenly borne by women and gender diverse people.

There are approximately 3.7 million Canadians living with diabetes, but a quarter of them have reported not following their treatment plan due to cost. Access to free diabetes medications would improve their health and reduce the risk of complications such as amputations or blindness.

What are the next steps?

Assuming the Pharmacare Act gets royal assent and becomes law, the federal government would negotiate funding with the provinces and territories to implement the program in provinces who opt in. Since each province must come to an agreement with the federal government to implement it, there is no guarantee this will happen in Saskatchewan. If it were implemented in Saskatchewan, the STF would need to look at the current pharmaceutical coverage and adjust it accordingly.