Ottawa, Feb. 22 (CP) The federal government is set to roll out a $7.5-billion initiative to help the families of Canadians battling chronic diseases pay for their medications.
The $15 billion pot will cover more than half the costs of drugs that patients have been paying for since the government launched its national program to treat chronic diseases in January.
The rest will come from provincial governments and other sources, including sales tax and other sales.
The pot will fund drug plans that provide coverage for people with a chronic disease to pay for drugs they need for treatment, as well as prevent deductibles and co-pays.
It will also provide funds to cover family doctor visits, laboratory tests and emergency room visits, including tests for certain chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
The government has not yet announced a price tag, but a government document said the program will be a “competitive” one.
Health Minister Jane Philpott says the plan will cover most of Canadians with a common chronic disease, and will also help the chronically ill, seniors and people who have suffered a stroke.
“The money we’re going to spend on this will go directly to helping families who are facing financial hardship,” Philpot said Tuesday in an interview.
She said there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure we’re getting these benefits for the most vulnerable Canadians.
Philpott said the federal-provincial partnership will help ensure that the federal plan covers all of the needs of Canadians who are currently covered by the national health plan, and that the provinces and territories will be responsible for all of their own costs.
But the plan has some problems.
While it has a $10-billion price tag to cover most people, it doesn’t cover all people.
The federal plan includes $1.5 billion for those with conditions that require an average of four or more prescriptions a year, which includes more than 7.5 million people.
The provinces will receive $3.6 billion and the territories will receive the remaining $3 billion, according to the document.
The provinces and the territorial governments will also pay for some of the costs, including co-payments, laboratory testing and emergency rooms visits, but not prescription drugs, which Philpowt said could change over time.
Philpow.ca: Families with chronic diseases get more helpThe federal plan will not cover all Canadians with chronic illnesses, which are expected to grow in the coming years.
In addition, the federal budget does not include a mechanism to reimburse provinces for certain co-payment or co-insurance costs.
Phil.pott is trying to address the shortfall in the federal health plan by providing a new formula to make up for the gap.
Under the new formula, people will be reimbursed if their cost of living rises over the next 12 months, up from $6,000 a year.
If their cost rises above that, the government will be expected to cover the difference, or it will pay out $5,000 for the cost of the new income-tested payment, which would be equal to a $2,000 increase in a family’s income.
Health experts say this is a good way to increase the pool of money for people struggling to pay their bills, while also making it more affordable.
For the first time, Philpotos budget will include a plan to cover prescription drug costs, but it will not include co-costs, according a spokesperson for the minister.
PhilPott said her department is already working to meet the challenges of the crisis in the medical care system, but she has been asking for help from other federal partners, including the provinces, in the past.
That will be an ongoing process.
One of the first challenges for the new program will involve ensuring that Canadians who have a chronic illness are covered, Philpot said.
Currently, some provinces, including Quebec, have opted out of the federal program, and some territories have not yet accepted the offer.
Philipott said she hopes the federal proposal will be the start of a more formal discussion of what kinds of co-contributions are possible.
This will be part of a broader conversation about the kinds of health care systems Canadians need, PhilPott told reporters Tuesday.
If we don’t work together, the first thing we’re all going to do is try to find another way to solve the problem.
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