With the federal government toying with a national pharmacare plan, MLI Munk Senior Fellow Sean Speer spoke at a panel hosted by The Empire Club of Canada to discuss what such a system might look like in practice.

Alongside former Ontario Deputy Minister of Health Michael Decter and President & CEO of the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders Durhane Wong-Rieger, Speer outlined the pros and cons of national pharmacare.

"The broader question of pharmacare involves some trade offs that policy makers and public need to be cognizant of," Speer explained. "About 23 million Canadians are getting their insurance through their employer... we have another 10 million who are receiving support through various public plans."

While there is a need for expanding access to drugs, Speer cautions that a national pharmacare scheme could be worse than what ails the current system. A national, single-payer pharmacare system would require a complete overhaul of the current system. Not only would such an approach be costly, but Speer argues that it would disrupt coverage for the 77 per cent of the population generally satisfied with the status quo.

"Trading off the current regime for the people who are being well-served by it to deal with a targetted but relatively small problem would be a big policy mistake"

Instead, Sean suggests a "redesign of the medical expense tax credit and to leverage the private model" of insurance. Rather than an overarching national pharmacare model that is expensive and unnecessary, Speer says that the government should target the relatively small cohort of Canadian's who are uninsured or unable to adequately access public phramacare supports.

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