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Don’t buy pharma’s lies about a universal pharmacare program

May 9, 2019

 

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STEVE MORGAN
Times Colonist
MAY 9, 2019 12:53 AM

As universal pharmacare gets closer to reality for Canada, drug companies are ramping up their false rhetoric. They say a universal, public pharmacare plan would result in worse access to medicines, higher costs and less innovation in Canada. Don’t believe them.

Canada is the only high-income country with a universal, public health-care system that does not include universal, public coverage of prescription drugs. Instead, we have an incomplete patchwork of private and public drug-insurance plans financed and managed separately from our medicare system. That is insane.

Contrary to pharma’s claims, our private-public drug-insurance system performs worse than universal, public pharmacare systems in terms of access, costs and innovation. Here’s why:

The incomplete nature of our patchwork of drug plans leaves about one in five Canadians uninsured. As a result, about one in 10 Canadians skips prescriptions simply because of the out-of-pocket costs.
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Each year, nearly 400,000 Canadians use additional medical and hospital services — services we all pay for — because they skipped prescriptions owing to out-of-pocket costs. More than 300 Canadians die prematurely each year as a result.

That alone should make universal pharmacare a national priority — an emergency.

But there are even more problems with our private-public drug-insurance system. For example, our heavy reliance on work-related private drug plans places strains on Canadian businesses.

Canadian employers currently fund nearly as many prescriptions as provincial governments do. This is not free money. It is a rapidly increasing cost of labour in Canada.

Consider this: Since 2006, the number of prescription drugs priced in Canada at more than $10,000 per patient per year has gone from 44 to 144. Although only about one in a hundred beneficiaries requires such high-priced medicines, they now account for a third of private drug-plan costs in Canada.

If we continue to rely on work-related drug plans, Canadian employers will have to bear ever-increasing risks that just one or two employees could end up bankrupting the company health plan. Or, worse yet, employers might be put in the impossible position of having to decide which employees will get needed treatments and which will not.

Our private-public drug-insurance system is not just unfair in the way it burdens employers and households, it is also inefficient.

Having thousands of different drug plans in Canada drives up administration costs while fragmenting our purchasing power on the global market for pharmaceuticals. Pharma loves this. So, too, do insurance companies. It is why Canadian households and businesses spend far more on prescriptions and related insurance premiums than households and businesses in countries with universal, public pharmacare systems.

Several studies, including one by Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer, estimate that universal, public pharmacare would significantly increase access to medicines, but actually cost billions of dollars less than Canadians are already spending on prescription drugs.

That is true health innovation: Spend less, get better outcomes.

Continuing to waste billions on Canada’s incomplete and unfair private-public drug-insurance system isn’t even good for Canadian scientists. Despite spending far more on medicines, Canada attracts far less pharmaceutical research investment than almost every comparable country with a universal pharmacare system.

The United Kingdom, for example, has universal, public pharmacare that provides better access to medicines at 40 per cent less cost per capita than Canada’s system, yet the United Kingdom attracts about five times as much pharmaceutical research-and-development per dollar spent.

Canadians should ignore pharma’s rhetoric about the perils of universal, public pharmacare. The truth is that our private-public drug-insurance system is killing Canadians, putting Canadian businesses and households at unnecessary financial risk, and doing nothing to foster Canadian innovation.

Want something better? Demand that Canada’s federal and provincial governments implement a universal, public pharmacare system that will save lives and money.

Steve Morgan, PhD, is a professor of health policy at the University of British Columbia and founder of Pharmacare 2020, a campaign to promote evidence-based prescription drug coverage for all Canadians.

Strategy ‘dramatically exceeds’ target for more MRI exams in B.C.: minister

May 3, 2019
Health Minister Adrian Dix says two private MRI outpatient clinics were purchased by Fraser Health as part of the strategy. (File photo)

Health Minister Adrian Dix says two private MRI outpatient clinics were purchased by Fraser Health as part of the strategy. (File photo)

Almost 44,000 more specialized diagnostic exams have been completed across British Columbia in the first year of a new health care strategy and Health Minister Adrian Dix says that amounts to an “extraordinary achievement.”

 
The B.C. Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Strategy includes a provision to operate magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, machines around the clock, with more than 233,000 exams done in the first year of the initiative.
 
When compared with the year before, Dix says their strategy “dramatically exceeded” the initial target of 37,000 scans.
MRI scans are vital to the diagnosis of soft tissue damage such as brain tumours, strokes or dementia and past wait times have extended a year or more.
 
While the minister didn’t have figures on how this has reduced the delays, preliminary data from Northern Health shows certain wait times dropped to 29 days from 57.
 
Dix says two private MRI outpatient clinics were purchased by Fraser Health as part of the strategy and the model could be applied to efforts to cut other health care wait times.
 
At the start of this year, 10 of B.C.’s 33 MRI machines were running around the clock, compared to one in August 2017, while 17 were running more than 19 hours a day, scanning patients at all hours of the day and night.

Read more »

Study: Primary Care Doctors Increase Life Expectancy, But Does Anyone Care?

April 14, 2019

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Robert Pearl, M.D.
Contributor

GETTY

GETTY

In a shocking development that could transform the medical profession, the International Journal of Health Services published the findings of a study titled, “Primary care, specialty care, and life chances.”

Using multiple regression analysis, the researchers concluded that “primary care is by far the most significant variable related to better health status,” correlating with lower mortality, fewer deaths from heart disease and cancer, and a host of other beneficial health outcomes. By contrast, and perhaps equally deserving of shock-value, the researchers determined “the number of specialty physicians [i.e., surgeons, cardiologists, orthopedists, etc.] is positively and significantly related to total mortality, deaths due to heart diseases and cancer, shorter life expectancy,” along with a host of other worrisome health outcomes.

What might these findings mean for the future of medical care?

“From a policy perspective, a likely implication is to reorient the medical profession from its current expensive, clinically based, treatment-focused practice to a more cost-effective, prevention-oriented primary care system,” according the study’s research abstract, which was published July 1, 1994.

That’s correct, the study was published 25 years ago.

This isn’t a belated April Fool’s joke. It’s a reminder of medicine’s reluctance to change in the face of powerful data. Instead of acknowledging the inconvenient facts and heeding the conclusions of the study, the healthcare system hasn’t budged in the last quarter century.

As a result, our nation’s primary-care problem has only gotten worse. So, too, has the health of American patients.

The most recent study to analyze the value of primary care – published February 18, 2019 in JAMA Internal Medicine – not only confirms decades of prior research, but also spotlights troubling trends in workforce planning, physician reimbursement and residency training.

Read more »

Want more family doctors? Change how they work and get paid, says B.C. researcher Social Sharing

March 24, 2019

Many grads ‘don’t want to run a business — that’s not what they went to medical school for’

Maryse Zeidler · CBC News · Posted: Mar 24, 2019 7:30 AM PT | Last Updated: 9 hours ago

Dr. Rita McCracken, left, with a patient at a nursing home she works at. McCracken wants the province to provide more team-based care for patients. (Providence Health Care)

Dr. Rita McCracken, left, with a patient at a nursing home she works at. McCracken wants the province to provide more team-based care for patients. (Providence Health Care)

A Vancouver doctor says the tentative agreement British Columbia recently reached with the province’s 14,000 doctors doesn’t do enough to change family medicine and address what she describes as a crisis in primary care.

Dr. Rita McCracken, a physician and University of British Columbia researcher, says the agreement doesn’t include newer ways for doctors to work and get paid.

“The care that has been provided through the old system has, by and large, been pretty good care,” McCracken said.

“We’re seeing that other systems might be better for population health.”

‘A sense of urgency’

Currently, most family doctors in B.C. are paid about $30 per patient visit — whether they’re treating a cold or a complex health problem.

Physicians run their practice as a business, and pay out overhead costs like staff and office space at an average rate of about $60 per hour or more.

SECOND OPINIONCanadian health care’s ‘one issue per visit’ problem

McCracken says many doctors want to work instead as part of a team of health-care practitioners like nurse practitioners, physiotherapists and social workers who are paid by salary to provide care for a community.

The province would fund the clinic and the health practitioners would draw a salary.

McCracken’s UBC research shows about half of the province’s doctors would prefer that approach — especially younger doctors.

“A lot of new graduates have commented to me that they don’t want to run a business — that’s not what they went to medical school for,” she said.

Read more »

Rx Community: Social Prescribing

March 15, 2019

 

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What would it look like for the healthcare system to see a patient as a whole person, instead of focusing on just their medical diagnoses? What if, along with medication, doctors and nurse practitioners were enabled to prescribe dance lessons, cooking classes, volunteer roles, caregiver supports, single-parent groups, and connections to bereavement networks?

This kind of “social prescription” is sweeping across the United Kingdom and gaining international recognition. That’s because what makes people healthy isn’t just genetics and lifestyle choices. Access to healthy food, education, employment, income, and opportunities for connectedness all have significant impacts on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. Good clinicians know this, and need a trusted system to turn to for the issues their clients face that are outside the providers’ medical expertise, time, or mandate.

Read more »

Recommendations on a national pharmacare program

March 6, 2019

Good news. First steps on Pharmacare. “The recommendations in today’s report have the potential to increase access and move to lower costs if implemented alongside a universal, national, public pharmacare program,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. 

“The creation of a national drug agency and the development of a comprehensive, evidence-based national drug formulary are significant changes that will move Canada in the right direction,” said Yussuff.  “Delivering this through a pharmacare model designed similarly to Medicare will ensure that everyone, no matter where they live, has access to the medications they need, as they do right now with hospitals and doctors,” he continued.

http://canadianlabour.ca/news/news-archive/canadas-unions-welcome-first-steps-pharmacare

The Time has Come for a National Pharmacare Plan

February 25, 2019

Pharma

Nobody should be forced to choose between paying for groceries and paying for the medication they need.

Send a message to your Member of Parliament. Ask them to support establishing a universal national prescription medication system to provide coverage for everyone in Canada—regardless of their income, age, or where they work or live.

It only will take a few seconds out of your busy day.

You can also find out: 1. how many Canadians support a National Pharmacare plan and 2. why pharmacare makes economic sense, as well as other answers to your question.

OK, the answer to the first question is: 91% of Canadians 

http://www.aplanforeveryone.ca/mp?utm_campaign=unopened_february_test_b_2&utm_medium=email&utm_source=canadianlabour

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