Potential cuts to drug benefit program worry seniors

Seniors are worried they might have to choose between paying the rent or buying generic drugs in light of potential cuts to the Ontario Drug Benefit Program.

As reported in the Sun last week, the province has contracted a consultant for $750,000 to find ways of cutting costs by targeting “very unacceptable practices” in the professional allowance system of payments between generic drug companies and pharmacies.

The Health Ministry insists the changes is not meant to hurt the wallets of seniors and welfare recipients who use the plan, but some senior advocacy groups are afraid it will.

“Sometimes, even now, they’re in the position: ‘Do I pay for the drugs or pay for the rent or eat?'” said Ken Cunningham, president of the United Senior Citizens of Ontario. “This just may add one more thing to the equation.”

Cunningham said some of his members have been writing letters to their local MPPs demanding a refund of the $100 deductible seniors are required to pay up front at the start of each August because they feel it’s too expensive, especially if the list of drugs could potentially shrink.

“We’ve been trying to get some of the money we’re already paying cancelled,” he said. “You pay $100 upfront each year for nothing. Sometimes you wonder if (low-income seniors) are taken into consideration or not.”

The government hasn’t announced what the changes are to the drug program, but the announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

Susan Eng, vice-president of advocacy for CARP, expressed concern that the government might contain costs by cutting back on the availability of some necessary drugs and by failing to include new ones in the plan.

“I think that would be wrong,” Eng said yesterday. “The way they choose to list these drugs has to be more transparent. Trying to get generics is a good idea because we do pay more to get generics in Canada than they do in the U. S.”

© Canoe.ca

Keywords: drugs, costs