This election, several parties are each proposing to create a universal pharmacare program to reduce the cost of prescription drugs to Canadians. The cost of such a program would be significant. A report by a panel headed by former Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins pegged the cost at $3.5 billion in 2022 before rising to $15.3 billion each year by the time the program is fully operational in 2027.
At the same time, our existing health care system remains woefully underfunded. The federal government’s Canada Health Transfer covers only an estimated 15% of the $253.5 billion costs to provide health care to Canadians every year. The government has now capped the annual increase to these transfers at 3%, despite the fact that the cost of healthcare is increasing by 6 to 7% a year.
This funding gap is hurting Canadians. Hospital waiting rooms sit idle when doctors could be performing critical procedures. Wait times for medical treatment hit a high of 19.8 weeks in Canada last year. This has not only a physical cost to patients, but a financial one: an estimated $2.1 billion in lost wages in 2018, or $1,900 per person.
Creating an expensive pharmacare program when our system is in such dire straits makes no sense. The federal government has to first close the funding gap and increase the Canada Health Transfer by 6% instead of 3% per year, to reflect the actual increase in healthcare costs. This 6% Solution is the first step to ensuring that Ottawa pays its fair share and that patients get the treatment they deserve.