Weekly Top Stories: Mixed Reactions as Pharmacare Act Moves Toward Universal Drug Coverage

Published on
June 10, 2024
Written by
Delphic Research
Read time
8 min

This week's edition included notable advancements in healthcare reform, which featured both positive developments and heated discussions. Also a number of significant shifts in the political landscape, including major cabinet changes in Ontario.


The recent passage of Bill C-64, the Pharmacare Act, through the House of Commons brings Canada a step closer to a universal, single-payer national pharmacare program.

The bill, sponsored by Health Minister Mark Holland, received praise from healthcare professionals, labour activists, and patient advocates, who view it as a major advancement in healthcare. However, the bill has faced criticism from insurance and corporate lobbyists.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in a statement from Senior Vice President Kathy Megyery, expressed concerns about its potential impact on the private insurance plans of 27 million Canadians.

Further, Stephen Frank, President and CEO of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, emphasized the need to amend the bill to ensure it aligns with Minister Holland's assurances that existing workplace benefits will not be affected, thereby preserving choice and preventing potential gaps in drug coverage.

However, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario and the Canadian Labour Congress urged the Senate to swiftly pass Bill C-64 and prioritize Canadians' health over pharmaceutical and insurance industry interests. Both groups emphasized the bill's potential to enhance healthcare, alleviate financial burdens for families, and ensure control over sexual and reproductive health.

In an open letter addressed to all Senators, Innovative Medicines Canada (IMC) emphasized the importance of careful consideration regarding the Pharmacare bill. IMC is urging for measures that elevate Canadians' access to innovative medicines. IMC's statement reflects its commitment to ensuring that any proposed Pharmacare program maintains high healthcare standards.

While these developments are welcomed, it's crucial to remain vigilant, especially in light of the data revealed by Manulife Canada’s Employee Health Report. The report revealed two alarming trends in the Canadian workforce, including increased use of obesity medications and a notable uptick in prescriptions for substance abuse.

Manulife Group Benefits aggregated claims data and found that the use of anti-obesity drugs has increased 42.3% year-over-year, amounting to 91.9% since 2021. Additionally, Canadians’ use of substance abuse disorder drugs has increased by 17.2% year-over-year.

These findings underscore the pressing need for comprehensive healthcare solutions to address these growing health challenges among Canadians. The expansion of the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP) represents another significant step in improving overall healthcare access. Minister Holland recently expressed frustration with the dental community's reluctance to fully support the CDCP, despite extensive efforts to address their concerns.

As of now, the program boasts the participation of over 10,500 oral health providers, with more than 2 million seniors already approved for coverage. The initiative, aimed at providing essential dental care to Canadians lacking private insurance, is set to undergo a major expansion on June 27 to include children under 18 and people with disabilities; a move that will make 1.2 million additional Canadians eligible.

This expansion is part of a gradual rollout that began on May 1 for seniors, with plans to extend to all Canadians aged 18 to 64 by January 2025. Ultimately, the CDCP aims to cover a quarter of Canadian residents without private dental plans, reflecting a $13 billion investment over five years.

In other news, on the last day of the legislative session, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a major cabinet shuffle following the resignation of Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s education minister since 2019, was appointed as the new Minister of Energy and Electrification, switching roles with Todd Smith.

According to Ontario’s news release, other changes include Stan Cho as Minister of Tourism, Culture and Gaming, Lisa Thompson as Minister of Rural Affairs, Rob Flack as Minister of Farming, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Mike Harris as Minister of Red Tape Reduction, and Natalia Kusendova-Bashta as Minister of Long-Term Care.


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