Wednesday June 26, 2019
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Opinion

We can’t afford wall to wall pharmacare

In early 2018, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins to chair an advisory council on the implementation of a national pharmacare program.

This week, the council issued its final report recommending a top-to-bottom overhaul of prescription drug coverage that would effectively wipe out the existing workplace and private drug plans that cover more than two-thirds of Canadians, and replace them with a one-size-fits-all government plan for everyone, at a cost of $15 billion per year.

While some were surprised at such a “bold” (translation: expensive) recommendation, they shouldn’t have been. Hoskins, a doctor who spent years working in war-torn places like Sudan and Iraq, is nothing if not compassionate. Nobody should question his desire to help.

But compassion alone doesn’t make it a good idea, and Hoskins’ own political past suggests he’s not worried about running up the bills for taxpayers.

As health minister under Kathleen Wynne, he introduced changes to Ontario’s health insurance plan that made prescription drugs free for everyone under age 25, in spite of the fact the overwhelming majority of this group was already fully covered by their parents’ workplace or private plans.

In effect, he spent taxpayer money subsidizing people who had zero need for a subsidy.

Now, he wants to supersize that mistake on a national scale, by recommending that taxpayers be forced to spend billions on a government drug plan for people who already have workplace and private sector coverage – coverage that would almost certainly be more comprehensive than the new government plan that replaced it.

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