NDP calls on Nova Scotia government to reduce or waive pharmacare co-payments

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NDP Leader Claudia Chender is calling on the Nova Scotia government to reduce or waive the co-payment requirements of its seniors and family pharmacare programs. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
NDP Leader Claudia Chender is calling on the Nova Scotia government to reduce or waive the co-payment requirements of its seniors and family pharmacare programs. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

NDP Leader Claudia Chender says a way the Nova Scotia government could acknowledge the hardships people are facing amid rising cost-of-living pressures would be to waive or reduce the co-pay requirement for the seniors and family pharmacare programs.

Chender called on Premier Tim Houston to take the step during question period on Tuesday at Province House.

"For so many people who need access to life-saving drugs, they have a choice of whether to pay for food or pay for medicine," she told the legislature.

The premier, who did not speak to reporters following question period, told Chender he would see what is possible.

Chender later told reporters that removing the co-pay would be "an elegant solution" to help some of the lowest earners in the province save upwards of $1,000.

"We know that our population is older and sicker than the rest of the country and folks pay a lot for medicine and a lot of folks right now just aren't taking it," she said.

"So what does that do? More pressure on our ERs."

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

Chender said she'd also like to see the government eventually index the threshold for the pharmacare programs. Seniors who qualify for provincial pharmacare pay a premium based on their income and a maximum annual co-payment of $382. The co-payment for the family pharmacare program is 20 per cent of a prescription price. The annual maximum is calculated based on the size and income of a family.

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said it's good the government is going to look at the co-pay requirement, but he said there are other ways the public could be helped with cost-of-living pressures, too.

Churchill, whose party introduced several pieces of legislation in the last week with that aim, said the government has not done enough in recent months to help people struggling to get by and he's waiting to see a plan.

"They do not have a plan to deal with inflation, they do not have a plan to prevent a recession and that means that they're going to potentially pick and choose an item here and there that they think might help or get them some political points," he told reporters.

Jeorge Sadi/CBC
Jeorge Sadi/CBC

Health Minister Michelle Thompson told CBC News that her mandate letter includes reviewing the pharmacare programs, but there is no timeline for when that work will be completed.

"The urgency is around knowing that the program needs to be reviewed," she said at Province House.

"It is a very complex file and we have a number of competing priorities, as well, in government."

Thompson said the early work for the review has started. In the meantime, she said if there's a treatment someone requires, the government would work to make sure "that we can find a way to help support them."

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