Pharmacare Bill in the Parliament

Private Insurance Cartels Attack Public Health Care

K.C. Adams

Bill C-64 -- An Act Respecting Pharmacare was introduced in the House of Commons on February 29. The summary of the bill on the House website says:

"This enactment sets out the principles that the Minister of Health is to consider when working towards the implementation of national universal pharmacare and provides the Minister with the power to make payments, in certain circumstances, in relation to the coverage of certain prescription drugs and related products. It also sets out certain powers and obligations of the Minister -- including in relation to the preparation of a list to inform the development of a national formulary and in relation to the development of a national bulk purchasing strategy -- and requires the Minister to publish a pan-Canadian strategy regarding the appropriate use of prescription drugs and related products. Finally, it provides for the establishment of a committee of experts to make certain recommendations."

In addition, the legislation includes coverage for contraception and diabetes medication and devices like insulin pumps but this can only be implemented if the federal government can negotiate deals with the provinces and territories to include these provisions in their medical systems. The Liberals and NDP had high praise for the legislation and consider that it fulfils one of the pillars in their Supply and Confidence agreement. Alberta and Quebec governments have already said they will not participate in a national program, Quebec because it has its own provincial drug plan and Alberta wanting their per capita share of funding in cash.

The bill contains no commitment for a universal single-payer program. It calls for the creation of a committee of experts to make recommendations. It provides no timelines for adoption of the bill, let alone implementation.

In a completely self-serving manner private drug insurers have denounced the tentative measures of the federal government for a pharmacare system calling it a "bad move." Through the monopoly media they are attempting to create hysteria around the supposed cost of public pharmacare to the people.

For the rich to characterize public health care including pharmacare as bad and a cost to the people and economy is a self-serving attempt to block Canadians from receiving universal free health care. Pharmaceuticals are an integral part of the health care system. A modern country is duty bound to guarantee the health of its citizens with a universal free system encompassing all aspects of the sector including research, production, distribution, education and realization of its produced value. Healthy people are the backbone of a socialized modern economy and society and the essential human factor in the production of all goods and services.

Treating the need for drugs as an "accident" requiring insurance is a deliberate ploy to steal money from Canadians and their economy without providing anything worthwhile in return. Private or public insurance for health care is a fraud that deserves only to be denounced and put in the dustbin of history.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), a cartel of the most powerful private insurance oligopolies, says of pharmacare: "A single-payer program will spend unnecessary billions to disrupt existing workplace health benefit plans that are already making a larger number of prescription drugs more affordable for millions."[1]

The statement deliberately distorts the reality of insurance cartels sucking billions of dollars away from the people and economy for nothing in return. They siphon away social value and concentrate it under the private control of fewer and fewer hands. The private insurance oligopolies are owned and controlled by a ruling elite who dominate and control all aspects of life including the mass media and so-called democratic institutions. Only a portion of the money they seize from workers and companies through contract agreements for drug insurance goes toward the purchase of drugs. The rest is not returned to the health industry but rather goes to pay the rich in insurance profits and for the bureaucracy the insurance companies require to operate.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) in a recent report says prescription drug spending was $36.6 billion in 2021-22, a 28 per cent increase from 2015-16. Of this spending 40 per cent or $14.64 billion was paid through the private insurance oligopolies. Forty-six per cent or $16.836 billion was covered by governments through various schemes including for hospital inpatients and 14 per cent or $5.124 billion was paid-out-of-pocket by individuals. Of note is that Canadians spent an additional $6.7 billion on non-prescription drugs generally without any coverage.

The total amount the insurance companies receive in gross payment in return for prescription drug insurance both from collectives of workers and their employers, and from individuals has to be in excess of the amount they pay out for drugs. The aim of the insurance cartels is maximum private profit at the expense of the people and economy. This means the total the cartels receive in drug insurance premiums to accommodate their thirst for profit and to pay for their bureaucracy has to exceed the $14.64 billion they paid for drugs or they would not have any reason to be in business. The additional amount paid to them above the $14.64 billion in insurance premiums covers the price of production of the insurance service, which includes the profit and amount for their bureaucracy. This extra amount above the $14.64 paid out for drugs is wasted on a service that does not need to exist in the first place and is contrary to the needs of the people and history for universal free health care.

Private payment for health care is not restricted to pharmaceuticals. Canadians pay for a wide range of health care services either out of pocket or through parasitical private insurance plans. The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports 29 per cent of the total health care expenditures is paid privately through plans or out of pocket with the rest paid publicly through government agencies. The amount Canadians pay for various forms of private insurance necessarily exceeds the portion of health care expenses paid through their private group or individual insurance plans.[2]

The arguments of the rich elite against universal free health care including all parts of the body and pharmaceuticals from birth to passing away are self-serving and a reflection of the corruption, parasitism and decay of the imperialist system. Universal free health care at the highest level the productive forces have attained is a just and necessary demand of the people and times.

This article was published in
Volume 54 Number 2 - March 2024

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