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'Not consulted': Alberta health minister questions Ottawa's national pharmacare plan

EDMONTON — Alberta's health minister is questioning the need for a national pharmacare plan, saying the province already has a comprehensive program for seniors, those on a low-income and those who receive disability benefits.

The federal NDP said last week it had reached a deal on pharmacare with the Liberal government that would allow every Canadian with a health card to access free diabetes medication and birth control.

The coverage is to be included in the first piece of a national pharmacare program — a key pillar of the supply-and-confidence agreement between the two parties — with legislation expected to be introduced in the House of Commons this week.

"We were not consulted about the federal government’s plan, and although information available to us is limited, we have concerns about the proposed limited scope," Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a statement Monday.

"The province is willing to work and discuss ways that the federal government can invest in Alberta’s pharmacare program to enhance the existing program that is comprehensive and currently available to Albertans."

LaGrange said Alberta intends to opt out of the national program and wants its full per capita share to add into the province's health-care system.

She said the Alberta government already sponsors drug plans that provide coverage for over 5,000 Health Canada approved drugs. That includes coverage in a number of drug classes to treat common conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma and other respiratory diseases, she said.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters Monday he believes provinces that are planning to opt out will eventually opt in.

"I think it will be very difficult for the premier in Alberta to explain to people in Alberta who can’t afford their diabetes medication why they’re turning down an investment that would cover everyone in that province for their insulin and for their medical devices necessary for diabetes," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2024.

The Canadian Press