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Pharmacare won’t be free for all Canadians

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau says a new national Pharmacare program will be “fiscally responsible” and designed to fill in gaps, not provide prescription drugs for Canadians already covered by existing plans.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa to kick off a post-budget sales job, Morneau said many Canadians are without coverage, including people who are self-employed. Some parts of the system are working well, but others are not, he said.

“We need a strategy to deal with the fact not everyone has access, and we need to do it in a way that’s responsible, that deals with the gaps, but doesn’t throw out the system that we currently have,” he said.

Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s former Liberal health minister, will chair a council that will consult with stakeholders and make recommendations to government on how to proceed with a national plan.

Morneau said the committee will need time to carefully study the issue because the workforce and cost of pharmaceuticals have changed dramatically in the last two decades.

Ontario adopted a Pharmacare plan this year that offers free medication to babies, children and youth aged 24 and under who have OHIP coverage.

Called OHIP+, the program is expected to cost about $450 million a year and affect about four million people provincewide. It expands a program already providing coverage for Ontario’s seniors and those on Ontario Works, a provincial program that offers financial and employment help to residents of the province.

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