What are the next steps on the long road to a national pharmacare plan?

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling his government's new pharmacare bill a huge step forward and says he will act on plans to make all medications affordable for Canadians — but he stopped short of promising a full-fledged pharmacare program.

Health Minister Mark Holland tabled a bill in the House of Commons Thursday that maps the way toward a national drug plan.

The first step is to negotiate coverage for birth control and diabetes drugs with provinces and territories — something the minister says he's fairly certain he can accomplish by the next election.

The Liberal government drafted the legislation with the help of the NDP, which staunchly supports a single-payer, universal program that would cover prescription drugs for everyone with a valid health card.

The bill sets out the what must happen before the government commits to a full pharmacare plan, including getting expert recommendations on what the program should look like and how it should be paid for.

Holland says he's not certain the full program will happen, though, or when it will have the information needed to make a decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2024.

The Canadian Press