Seniors in Canada are not filling their prescriptions due to costs
A new study from Statistics Canada, funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada, has found that individuals lacking private or employer-sponsored drug coverage faced challenges adhering to prescribed medications due to financial constraints. This trend was observed among those with no coverage and those relying on provincial or existing federal prescription programs.
The study coincides with ongoing negotiations between the New Democrats and the government, shaping the foundational principles of a federal pharmacare program. Anticipated legislation is expected to embody these principles, forming a political agreement between the government and the NDP to secure key votes.
The study found a rise in the percentage of Canadians with some form of drug coverage in 2019. In that year, 81 percent of men and 81.8 percent of women had coverage, compared to 79.5 percent and 80.3 percent, respectively, in 2015-2016. This increase was attributed to “the expansion of government-sponsored plans in various provinces, such as Ontario, Alberta, and Prince Edward Island.”
Seniors were identified as the demographic that is most likely to have their prescriptions covered by the government. Despite this, a 2017 study revealed that Canada had high rates of seniors not filling prescriptions due to costs compared to peer countries.
The study also highlighted disparities in coverage access for certain racialized groups, with immigrants less likely to have coverage than those born in Canada.
Addressing the ongoing debate, the New Democrats advocate for a single-payer, universal pharmacare program, yet it remains uncertain if the Liberals support this stance. Originally aiming to pass a pharmacare bill in December, the parties set a new deadline for legislation to be tabled by March 1.
Various interest groups, including the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, have proposed alternative models. The authors noted that their findings underscore the necessity for a more equitable pharmacare system, while emphasizing the importance of efforts to improve prescription drug affordability for specific vulnerable groups.