McGuinty pushes pharmacare again
Published On Wed May 19 2010. Rob Ferguson, Queen’s Park Bureau
Ontario’s controversial reforms cutting the price of generic drugs in half could help point the way to a national pharmacare program, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.
“I think that will very likely be a natural evolution from this debate. I think you’re going to see many other provinces adopt the funding approach we are bringing when it comes to paying for our generic drugs.”
The idea of a national pharmacare program was quashed by the former Liberal federal government six years ago as too expensive, but increased pressures on health care budgets since then show the idea is worth reconsidering, McGuinty told reporters.
“We’re going to have to find a way as we work together to ensure that our health-care system becomes sustainable, because, at present, it is not,” added the premier, who championed a national pharmacare program along with B.C. counterpart Gordon Campbell in 2004.
Provinces and territories could combine their buying power, McGuinty argued. The feds rejected the plan provincial premiers put forward years ago, estimating the cost at about $12 billion a year and fearing the cost would have to be borne by Ottawa.
McGuinty’s comments came as pharmacists held a news conference at Queen’s Park reiterating concerns the drug reforms passed by the Legislature this week could force some smaller drug stores to close, cut some services or start charging for them as the reforms cut an average of $300,000 from pharmacy revenues.
“I’ll have to start making some incredibly difficult business decisions,” said Monica Miatello, who with her business partners owns four stores in the London area, including one in the hamlet of Ailsa Craig, where there are no doctors.
Earlier in the day, McGuinty said the reforms will boost financial supports for rural pharmacies but noted there are more drug stores in Ontario than there are Tim Hortons in all of Canada. He noted Ontario pays up to 80 per cent more for generic drugs than other jurisdictions around the world.
“I would ask the premier to come to Ailsa Craig, where there is no Tim Hortons and soon maybe no pharmacy,” Miatello responded. “I think that’s a ridiculous statement.”
Health Minister Deb Matthews stepped in to watch the pharmacists’ news conference and ended up talking with Miatello and two colleagues, telling them the reforms won’t take effect until late spring.
She urged them to tell their industry coalition to come to the bargaining table to help shape how $300 million in industry supports will be divvied up, as the government bans about $750 million a year paid to pharmacies by generic drug companies in “professional allowances.”
But there was no mention of how to bridge the financial gap between the two figures that pharmacists say will leave them in a cash flow squeeze, said Progressive Conservative MPP Christine Elliott, her party’s health critic.
“That’s the really big issue that’s still in play.”
< http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/811825–mcguinty-pushes-pharmacare-again >