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NDP, Liberals strike deal to cover cost of diabetes medicines, birth control

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals and New Democrats have reached a deal that would allow every Canadian with a health card to access free diabetes medication and birth control, the NDP confirmed Friday.

The coverage is to be included in the first piece of a national pharmacare program, with legislation expected to be introduced in the House of Commons next week.

It's a critical piece of the supply-and-confidence pact between the two parties, in which the NDP agreed to support the Liberals on key votes in the Commons in exchange for movement on shared priorities.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh threatened in recent weeks to pull out of the deal if the Liberals didn't agree to certain terms by a March 1 deadline.

A spokesperson for the NDP confirmed the pharmacare deal on Friday and said some final details could still be worked out over the weekend.

The deal includes all insulin for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the spokesperson said, as well as additional diabetes drugs and a fund for supplies such as glucose monitoring.

It will not cover Ozempic, a new drug for diabetes that has been used off-label as a weight-loss drug.

The government is also expected to fully cover contraceptives in line with what British Columbia covers. That includes IUDs and emergency contraception, most commonly known as morning-after pills.

Ontario also provides many contraceptives for people under the age of 25 who don't have private insurance. Manitoba's government has already pledged to do so as well.

Abortion pills, which are different than morning-after pills, are already offered for free at pharmacies across Canada.

The NDP and Liberals had initially agreed to pass a pharmacare bill by the end of 2023.

But in December, both parties agreed to add negotiating time, pinning March 1 as a deadline for the government to table legislation.

The broad strokes of a deal were in place early last week, but the parties were still in talks about which drugs would be covered in the first go around of a national single-payer program.

Liberals had previously cited concerns about the potential costs of pharmacare, even as the NDP pushed for the program to include more right off the bat.

If the federal government moves towards fully implementing national pharmacare, that wider program is expected to cost roughly $40 billion a year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press