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Health

NWT says it supports national pharmacare bill


The territorial government is in favour of a national pharmacare bill that would see Canadians acquire universal public access to prescribed medication with expenses covered by the government.

The proposed legislation, Bill C-213, is a private member’s bill put forth by Peter Julian, the New Democrat MP for New Westminster-Burnaby.

Julian proposes a national single-payer pharmacare program that would “deliver better healthcare and improve the health and lives of millions of Canadians,” according to his party.

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“Canada is falling behind, being the only high-income country that has a universal healthcare system but does not include universal coverage of prescription drugs,” the NDP says. “The lack of coverage results in one in five Canadians being unable to afford the medication their doctors prescribe.”

The bill has its first parliamentary vote on Wednesday.

Private members’ bills typically have a low chance of being passed as they rarely acquire government backing.

If passed, a national pharmacare program could be developed by next spring.

In the NWT legislature on Tuesday, health minister Julie Green said the bill could be a “game changer” in the way NWT residents go about acquiring prescription medication.  

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Green said only about 50 percent of residents in the territory have pharmacy and medication coverage.

“This would take in a lot of people who are currently left out,” she said.

The minister said pharmacare had “not received the attention it deserves, primarily because it has coincided with the pandemic, and federal and territorial resources have been focused on that.”

Green said that while the NWT supported a national pharmacare program, the “fine print” would have to include provisions unique to the territory.

“We wouldn’t want a boiler-plate system. We would want a system that suits our particular needs in the Northwest Territories,” she said, suggesting that would include long-term funding.

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly asked Green if the territory’s support had been communicated to the NWT’s Liberal MP, Michael McLeod, before he casts his vote on Wednesday.

Green said she was not sure what, if any, conversation on the matter had taken place with McLeod.

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