Cost of national pharmacare program $400M more than government projections: PBO

The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates the cost for pharmacare at $1.88 billion over 5 years. This is more than what's budgeted – but pharmacare advocates say this increase is less than 0.1% of overall government spending.

By Cormac MacSweeney

A new report from the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates the first five years of the federal pharmacare program will cost $1.9 billion, which is $400 million more than what the government set aside in the last budget.

However, advocates say the numbers are flawed because the report doesn’t take into account bulk buy savings or how provincial deals may be structured.

Steven Staples with the Canadian Health Coalition tells CityNews there will also be savings for the overall system by getting people the drugs they need.

“If we can improve the health care of those Canadians by keeping them out of the health care system, that’s going to improve it for everybody,” he said, adding the benefits outweigh the costs.

“Not only is it going to reduce costs across the whole system but it will save lots of people money by having a universal single-payer system.”

The PBO does admit there is a lot of uncertainty about the program and several factors could either reduce or increase costs for the government.

Health Minister Mark Holland said during the program’s announcement back in February the price tag was likely to change based on negotiations with provinces and territories.

The Conservatives criticize what they are calling cost overruns and a half-baked plan by the Liberals.

The first phase of pharmacare is set to cover diabetes and contraception medication with the federal government planning to expand drugs covered in future years.

If the federal government moves towards fully implementing national pharmacare, that wider program is expected to cost roughly $40 billion a year.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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