The Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) supports universal drug coverage for seniors, but the organization has serious concerns about Bill C-64, the proposed federal pharmacare legislation.

In a newsd release issued May 14, CARP Chief Policy and Education Officer Bill VanGorder said Bill C-64 is not designed for the coverage that many of CARP’s 225,000 members and their families need.

“We also have concerns that this approach will leave others, currently funded by workplace plans, behind,” said VanGorder.

“CARP believes every Canadian should have access to the medications they need when they need it most,” said VanGorder. “Bill C-64 focuses on providing universal, single payer drug coverage for diabetes medications, devices and supplies. We applaud selecting diabetes as one of the two initial conditions for coverage under Bill C-64. Diabetes management is key to a more effective, well-managed healthcare system; but the current announced coverage uses federal funds to cover people that already have coverage for these medications through their workplace.”

VanGorder said in doing so, hte legislation does not cover the range of medications and supports required by most seniors with diabetes.

He outlined CARP’s concerns with the Bill C-64 legislation:

* This legislation is currently unclear about the ability of workplace benefit plans to continue to cover many necessary diabetes medications both on and off the proposed list.

* There is a lack of clarity around devices, supplies and related coverage: Canada is already behind on funding the most innovative drugs and equipment. CARP wants assurances that older Canadians will not be left further behind in terms of innovation and care.

* Under the new system, it is unknown if some seniors and older Canadians will have less coverage under the new pharmacare program than on their existing workplace benefits plan.

* CARP does not believe any federal funds should be spent on people who already have coverage; 27 million Canadians already have coverage from a workplace benefits plan. In 2022, Canada’s Life and Health Insurers paid out $14.3 billion for drugs, which accounts for over 35 percent of prescription drug spending in Canada.

* The 2024 federal budget allotted $1.5 billion over five years to the pharmacare program – for diabetes and contraceptives for all Canadians.

“Let’s use these funds wisely for those who don’t have it today and need it most; and find ways to improve quality of care through innovation,” said VanGorder.

* Considering the classes of drugs the federal government is proposing to cover, diabetes drugs, devices and supplies, and contraceptives, insurers covered $2.2 billion in related costs for 3.8 million Canadians last year.

“This is far more than the $1.5 billion the federal government has pledged for pharmacare over five years and will not improve access to the newest, most efficient medications on the market,” said VanGorder. “Bill C-64 should focus on providing more to those who need care and provide greater scope of support and service to those who need it most while protecting the existing coverage of over 27 million Canadians.”

VanGorder said CARP believes it is critical that these first steps towards national pharmacare get it right: CARP urges the use federal investments in pharmacare for those who need it most, when they need it most with a program designed for success not just for these initial diabetes medications but for all medications covered in future development of the program.

“Our healthcare system requires an efficient use of resources and a commitment to innovation that ensures our seniors and older Canadians always have access to the newest, best drugs at the best price – when they need it most,” he said.