N.B. health minister unveils long-awaited catastrophic drug plan
Published Tuesday, December 10, 2013 10:34AM AST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 10, 2013 7:10PM AST
New Brunswick is finally getting its long-awaited catastrophic drug plan.
It is the last province to cover the costs of some of the most expensive drugs, and every person in New Brunswick will have prescription drug coverage under the plan, for a price.
Prescription drug user Maryann Moore says she is optimistic about the plan. Moore has multiple sclerosis and spends about $600 on prescription drugs each month.
“I have family that have seen what this drug does and how good it is for me that they chip in and they help pay for the cost of the drug,” says the Sussex resident.
Health Minister Hugh Flemming introduced the prescription drug coverage plan in the legislature on Tuesday.
He says it’s a multi-faceted plan that will help low-income earners deal with drug costs and force private plans to boost their coverage to match the province’s coverage.
As of April 1, 2015, any New Brunswicker without a private drug plan will have to join the provincial plan. About 70,000 New Brunswick families do not have prescription drug coverage.
Premiums will range between $800 and $2,000 annually, depending on a person’s income. The premiums for people with low incomes will be subsidized up to 100 per cent.
At the low end of the premium scale, individuals would pay $67 a month, while those who make more than $75,000 a year would pay $167 monthly. There will be no deductible.
“If a person can’t afford a deductible…what’s the sense of making a plan available if it doesn’t help anybody, and people who have lower incomes need more help. It’s that simple,” says Flemming.
The plan, to be administered by Medavie Blue Cross, will be implemented in two phases. People can enrol in the plan starting May 1.
The government estimates that once the plan is fully rolled out, it will cost up to $150 million annually.
Dr. Lynn Hansen, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, says the plan should help improve health care in the province.
“I think it’s a very good step. It will definitely not enable everyone to get everything that they want or need, but it’s definitely a very good first step,” says Hansen.
For the most part, political opponents are endorsing the plan, which was promised during the Progressive Conservatives’ provincial election campaign almost four years ago.
Flemming says it took time to get the plan right.
“If you want to criticize me on the timing, have at it,” he says. “I will not apologize for doing it right.”
Moore says it’s better late than never, and feels as if a burden has been lifted from her shoulders.
“It’s not a life or death thing, but it’s a quality of life thing,” she says. “If I can remain in my home and stay independent and do what I’ve been doing, it’s worth it.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Andy Campbell and The Canadian Press