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Election 2019
Federal Politics

The Election, Pharmacare, and Dental Care: A Tyee Reader

You wanted to know who’s promising what on these critical issues. Here’s what we did.

Andrew MacLeod 18 Oct

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at

Ahead of the election campaign, Tyee readers told us they wanted to know where the parties stood on pharmacare and dental care.

Both are essential parts of health care that have been left out of Canada’s universal system, which is why you asked: “What would it mean to include dental care and pharmacare as part of government-funded health care, and where do candidates stand?”

The need for pharmacare is particularly acute.

In 2018, Canadians spent $34 billion on prescription drugs, more than we spent on doctors and more per capita than almost any other industrialized country with a universal health-care system. And drug affordability remains a persistent problem.

“One in five Canadians struggle to pay for their prescription medicines,” according to A Prescription for Canada: Achieving Pharmacare for All, a report released last spring by a council chaired by former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins. (We summarized its findings here.)

“Three million don’t fill their prescriptions because they can’t afford to. One million Canadians cut spending on food and heat to be able to afford their medicine,” Hoskins said.

Individuals who can’t afford drugs they’ve been prescribed tend to die prematurely or suffer unnecessarily, it found. Sick people cost the health care system billions when they end up seeing doctors or in hospitals more frequently than they would have if their drugs had been covered.

The Liberals, having asked for the report, have embraced its recommendations to replace the patchwork of provincial and private coverage that exists now, and the party announced a “downpayment” toward making it happen.

The NDP and the Greens have also endorsed the report and believe the program can be put in place much faster than the council recommended.

The Conservative platform includes promises about coverage for drugs for rare diseases and about an inquiry into the use of the anti-malarial drug mefloquine in the armed forces, but nothing about introducing pharmacare or making most medicine cheaper.

As for dental care, it too is much needed (as our culture editor Dorothy Woodend explained well) but none of the parties would immediately introduce a universal program.

Instead both the Greens and the NDP would begin with coverage for people and families with lower incomes.

For the Liberals and Conservatives, dental care doesn’t appear to be on the agenda.  [Tyee]

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