Reposted with permission from the author, Arvind Mani.
On January 20-21, 2016, the provincial Ministers of Health met in British Columbia to discuss health care priorities and were joined for their second day of meetings by Canada’s new federal Minister of Health, Jane Philpott. At the conclusion of their meetings, it was announced that the federal government will be joining:
- The pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA)
- Federal/Provincial/Territorial (F/P/T) Working Group on Pharmaceuticals
- Steeper Rebates: Although the federal Non-Insured Health Benefit (NIHB) program has been negotiating product listing agreement with manufacturers for the past several years, this formal inclusion will likely increase the level of rebates offered to the federal plans.
- Reduced Administrative Burden: There will be less administrative burden for manufacturers as they no longer need to separate negotiations between the pCPA and the federal plans.
The pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance
- Capacity: The pCPA will now have another jurisdiction that can take the lead on pCPA negotiations.
- Funding: Although no formal funding mechanism has yet to be established for the new pCPA office, including the federal government provides another source of potential funding for the office lead initiative.
Health System Reform
- Intergovernmental Collaboration: The pCPA will now be a well-integrated F/P/T collaboration that will directly impact the reimbursement of prescription medications and could lay the groundwork for more bold initiatives surrounding a national formulary or catastrophic drug coverage program.
- Federal government Joins the pCPA
The Canadian federal government joins Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon as a participating member of the Alliance. Through various programs described below, the federal governments spends approximately $630 million in drug-related spending on an annual basis.
The Government of Canada federal drug plans provides drug benefits to:
First Nations and Inuit: The Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program of Health Canada provides supplementary health benefits, including prescription and non-prescription drugs, to approximately 808,686 registered First Nations and recognized Inuit to meet medical or dental needs not covered by provincial, territorial or other third-party health insurance.
Veterans: The Health Care Program of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) provides veterans and other eligible clients with health-related products and services. VAC’s Prescription Drug Program is the second largest of the federal programs, serving eligible veterans and former members of the Canadian Forces. Each year 83,000 clients of 132,000 eligible members access VAC prescription drug benefits.
Canadian Forces: The Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS) is the designated health care provider for Canada’s military personnel, delivering medical and dental services at military installations across Canada and overseas. The Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS) provides health care and services to95,000 Regular and Reserve Forces personnel in two distinct contexts: at home, which is referred to as in-garrison, and on deployment.
Federal Inmates: Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is the federal government agency responsible for administering correctional sentences for terms of two years or more, as imposed by a court. On any given day CSC is responsible for approximately 23,000 offenders, approximately 15,140 of whom are incarcerated (receiving direct health services in CSC institutions) and 7,750 of whom are on conditional release in the community (receiving health services in the community).
- Federal-Provincial-Territorial (F/P/T) Working Group on Pharmaceuticals
The federal government has been invited by Ontario to join an F/P/T working group on pharmaceuticals which aims to consider “a range of other measures to reduce pharmaceutical prices and improve prescribing and appropriate use of drugs, while striving to improve health outcomes.” The working group will also “explore approaches to improving coverage and access to prescription drugs for Canadians.”
In June 2015, a meeting of the provincial health ministers resulted in a call to have some form of national pharmacare by several provincial and territorial health ministers. While the Minister of Health for Ontario appeared to be strongly supporting some form of pharmacare and has initiated provincial consultation sessions on this subject, it is unclear how committed other provinces are to this notion. In fact, some of the other health ministers at the June meeting said federal leadership is crucial to efforts to create a universal pharmacare system
The topic of a national pharmacare program was not on the agenda of the Health Ministers meeting but it appears that the creation of this working group is aimed at addressing some of the key issues associated with prescription drugs – namely improving coverage and access for all Canadians.