NDP is 1st Ontario party to reveal full election platform and universal pharmacare will be in it

ndp leader andrea horwath

Andrea Horwath’s NDP will become the first Ontario party on Monday to unveil its full platform for the 2022 election campaign, with universal pharmacare as a centrepiece.   

The New Democrats will promise prescription drug coverage for all Ontarians if the party forms government after the June 2 election, CBC News has learned.

The pitch to voters on pharmacare emphasizes affordability, particularly for people who don’t have drug benefit plans and have to pay for their medications. Various polls suggest the rising cost of living will be a key concern in Ontario’s election.     

“Too many Ontarians must choose between filling their prescriptions or paying the bills,” reads a portion of the party’s platform seen by CBC News.

“The Ontario NDP will act immediately to accelerate pharmacare ensuring all Ontarians have prescription drug coverage faster,” says the platform, which puts the net cost of the program at $475 million. 

Horwath is set to release the NDP’s full platform at an event in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood on Monday morning.

Ontario residents spend at least $2.5 billion a year out-of-pocket on prescription medications, according to health ministry figures. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

At least 2.2 million Ontarians have no prescription drug coverage, according to provincial government figures, with out-of-pocket spending on medications totalling $2.5 billion annually. 

“It’s not only a health issue, it’s a major affordability issue. This is a practical way to save people money every month,” a senior NDP source told CBC News. 

Currently, the province’s Ontario Drug Benefit program covers the cost of prescription medications for all seniors, regardless of income, as well as for people receiving Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program funding.   

The previous Liberal government brought in prescription drug coverage for everyone under 25 back in 2017. Premier Doug Ford’s government rolled that back in 2018 shortly after taking office, so the province’s coverage for children and young adults now only applies to those without private insurance benefits.

The NDP promise of universal pharmacare for Ontario comes as the federal government is setting timelines for moving toward a national drug coverage plan. The federal NDP’s agreement to support the Justin Trudeau government hinges in part on passing a Canada Pharmacare Act by the end of 2023 and a bulk purchasing plan for drugs by June 2025. 

justin trudeau jagmeet singh composite
Federal New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, right, ‘successfully put a national pharmacare package back on the country’s agenda,’ says the Ontario NDP election platform. But the platform also says Ontarians ‘can’t afford to wait five years’ for the federal government to deliver a national prescription drug program. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“We’ve decided not to wait for a federal pharmacare program,” said the Ontario NDP source, adding that Horwath is “committed to taking an active role in fighting for that federal system.”

The source says bulk purchasing deals explain why universal pharmacare would only cost the provincial government $475 million, despite the estimate that Ontarians pay five times that much out of pocket on prescription medications.    

Before the full provincial pharmacare program is operating, an NDP government would make specific prescriptions free immediately, including birth control — a pledge announced Thursday by Horwath — as well as cancer drugs.

The NDP also put universal pharmacare in its 2018 election platform.

None of the other parties have indicated when they will release their full campaign platforms, although Steven Del Duca’s Liberals and Mike Schreiner’s Green Party have each unveiled several planks.

Meanwhile, Ford and his cabinet ministers have made billions of dollars worth of government announcements in recent weeks, and many of them can be expected to form part of the Ontario PC Party’s re-election platform.

Author: desi123

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