CARP Serves as Witness in House of Commons re: Pharmacare Act

A key part of CARP’s advocacy involves taking part in legislative processes, in which new laws, regulations and policies are built.

At the end of May, Bill VanGorder, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Chief Advocacy and Education Officer appeared as a witness for Bill C-64 (known as the Pharmacare Act) before the House of Commons’ Health Committee. See the official submission here.

Canadian Health Minister, Mark Holland, introduced the Pharmacare Act in February of this year. This bill aims to lay the groundwork for a universal pharmacare system, promising accessibility and affordability for prescription drugs across Canada. While this initiative holds the promise of addressing the dire need for drug coverage among Canadians, concerns have been raised, particularly by CARP, regarding the potential pitfalls and gaps in the proposed plan.

As witness, Bill VanGorder shared some of CARP’s concerns with respect to the current iteration of the Pharmacare Act.

CARP emphasizes the need to bridge existing gaps in drug coverage without inadvertently creating new ones. With approximately one in five Canadians lacking insurance for prescription drugs, the urgency to rectify this disparity is evident. However, despite the Pharmacare Act’s intention to address this issue, the current proposal is likely to further hinder rather than enhance accessibility to essential medications.

National Formulary

Bill C-64 mandates the establishment of the Canadian Drug Agency (CDA), entrusted with the task of developing a national formulary. This formulary will dictate which pharmaceutical drugs are covered under the pharmacare program. The selection process for these drugs raises critical questions: which medications will be included, which will be restricted, and which will necessitate prior authorization? These inquiries are crucial as they influence the ease of access and impose administrative burdens on healthcare providers.


The issue of co-payments poses another hurdle. The type of co-payment system adopted can significantly impact individuals’ ability to afford their medications. CARP stresses the importance of considering income disparities while designing the co-payment structure to ensure equitable access to healthcare for all Canadians.

Ensuring Key Perspectives are Heard and Integrated

While the bill proposes the formation of an expert committee to oversee the pharmacare program’s operation and financing, CARP underscores the necessity of inclusive decision-making. It advocates for representation from diverse stakeholders to ensure that the program’s development and implementation aligns with the needs of all Canadians.

Single-Payer Model

Concerns have been voiced regarding the potential repercussions of transitioning to a single-payer pharmacare model on existing public and private drug coverage. The proposal of a single public plan would mean everyone in Canada with a health card is eligible for national pharmacare. In other words, there would be no income cut-offs, eligibility rules, or exclusions, even for those already covered by plans. As a result of this breadth of coverage, many essential medications would not be covered, at great health and financial cost to average Canadians. Plus, wait times for new medicines, some life-saving, would increase and Canada already ranks 18th out of 20 comparable countries for the time it takes to get new medicines approved and available.

In light of these concerns, CARP emphasizes the importance of thorough consultations and due diligence in shaping the final pharmacare plan. It calls for collaborative efforts between the government and expert groups to address existing gaps and ensure that the proposed pharmacare system caters to the diverse needs of the Canadian populace.

Ultimately, the pursuit of universal pharmacare in Canada necessitates a careful balance between rectifying existing disparities and mitigating potential pitfalls. Through transparent dialogue, inclusive decision-making, and a commitment to equitable healthcare access, Canada can pave the way for a transformative pharmacare system that prioritizes the health and well-being of all its citizens.

Stay tuned as CARP continues to monitor the evolving situation advocate on behalf of older Canadians.