Conservative MP Marc Dalton (The News files)

Conservative MP Marc Dalton (The News files)

Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows MP votes no to NDP Pharmacare bill

Maple Ridge city councillor disappointed

The MP for Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows voted down a bill on national Pharmacare Wednesday, to the dismay of a city councillor.

Conservative MP Marc Dalton, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, was one of 295 MP’s who voted no to Bill C-213, the establishment of the Canada Pharmacare Act, during the bill’s second reading.

The bill would have been the first steps to universal pharmacare across the country – establishing provincial and territorial plans that would have to be in place in order to receive funding from the federal government.

Only 32 voted yes to the bill tabled by NDP MP Peter Julian, New Westminster-Burnaby.

All members of the NDP and Green Party voted in favour of the bill.

Just one Conservative Party member voted for the bill: MP Ben Lobb, Huron-Bruce. Two Liberal MP’s: Wayne Long, Saint John-Rothesay; and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Beaches-East York. And two independents: Jody Wilson-Raybould, Vancouver Granville; and Ramesh Sangha, Brampton Centre.

READ MORE: NDP unveils universal pharmacare plan, aims program delivery by the end of 2020

No Bloc Quebecois MP’s voted in favour of the bill.

“The backbone of Bill C-213 is to put in place, in the same way we have with the Canada Health Act, the principles around pharmacare,” said Julian in a speech in the House of Commons Wednesday.

“Those principles are exactly the same as in the Canada Health Act for our universal health care,” he said.

Julian said what the act would do is set the legal framework that would allow the government to negotiate the financial arrangements with the provinces that would bring pharmacare into the country.

Dalton acknowledged the NDP’s frustration at not passing the bill, however, he blamed the Liberals who have been promising pharmacare over “many elections”.

READ MORE: B.C. Pharmacare expanding use of ‘biosimilar’ drugs to save money

“They have made big promises and don’t come through with it,” he said from Ottawa on Friday.

Conservatives, he maintained, do believe that everyone should have, “reasonable access to the health care they need”, including prescription medication, which, he said is very important.

But, he said, that the plan being proposed needs to be more targeted.

“We don’t want to take away the system that’s already there,” he said, adding most workers have a benefit plan that covers a large percentage of their pharmacare needs.

“You don’t want to just bring in a system that takes away what’s already there and put it on the taxpayers,” added Dalton.

In British Columbia, he noted, there is a system in place to help people, the B.C. Care Pharmacare Plan.

That plan is in place to help residents of the province pay for eligible prescription drugs, certain medical supplies and pharmacy services – through several drug plans, the largest being the Fair PharmaCare Plan, which is based on income.

A deductible is determined based on a family’s income, provided by consent to the Canada Revenue Agency. The family will pay out of pocket until they reach that deductible, and after that PharmaCare will pay 70 per cent of the costs for the rest of the year, and 75 per cent for a family with a member born before 1940. If the family maximum has been reached, then PharmaCare will pay 100 per cent of eligible expenses for the rest of the year.

Dalton asserts it is this plan that needs to be looked at. There is no deductible for PharmaCare in the province up to $30,000, he explained, but once you hit $30,001, there is a $650 deductible.

“I think that it should be more of a transition when you hit $30,000. I’m happy to work along with local provincial representatives to advance different suggestions,” he said, but the focus needs to be on the provincial NDP government.

Maple Ridge city councillor Kiersten Duncan was disappointed the local MP voted against the bill.

“I think that Pharmacare is a really important plan for Canadians that makes health care more affordable and prescription drug coverage a real possibility,” said Duncan.

Duncan acknowledged that there is a B.C. pharmacare plan. But, she said, it is limited in coverage. There are a lot of medications that it, either, doesn’t cover, or it only covers a small portion of the cost of the medication.

“If I didn’t have extended medical, I would be out of pocket thousands of dollars every year for my medications. And I’m not the only one in that situation,” she said, noting that thousands of Canadians are in the same position who don’t have extended medical.

Especially, noted Duncan, young people, who are often in part-time positions because employers don’t want to give them full-time work with benefits.

In addition, the prescription pharmacare plan that was being proposed would have resulted in the lower prices of medications for Canadians because the federal government would have had better buying power purchasing pharmaceuticals en masse, said Duncan.

Duncan is ultimately upset because, she says, a national pharmacare plan would make it so people don’t have to make difficult decisions in their every day life.

“Between whether they are going to pay their rent or buy groceries or whether they are going to have to take half of their pills or a lower dose to try to make their medication last longer,” said Duncan.

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