Blog | October 31, 2013

Media Advisory: Organizations to host 11 forums on seniors care issues

Member organizations of Public Interest Alberta’s Seniors Task Force released a new position paper that challenges the Alberta government to rethink its proposed seniors’ drug plan strategy.PharmacareSixteen different seniors’ organizations, health professional unions and Friends of Medicare have written to Health Minster, Fred Horne urging him to adopt a public universal pharmacare plan and to host public consultations.

The Alberta government announced last spring that a new means–tested seniors’ drug plan would cut $180 million from seniors’ drug costs and take effect on January 1st, 2014. While the Health Minister just recently admitted that they are not going to be able to implement the new plan on schedule, seniors groups are very upset that the government has yet to provide any details about the plan nor, has there been any public consultation.

“The government continues to characterize this as a scheme to help the poor. We have no objection to helping low-income Albertans, but the fact remains that what the government is proposing is solving its budget problems on the backs of people because they are sick,” says Noel Somerville, Chair of Public Interest Alberta’s Seniors Task Force. “When did it become acceptable public policy for the government to offload its financial problems on citizens because they are sick?”

"It is disappointing that the government is not able to design a universal program that consolidates all the current programs while failing to deliver on many promises from the Pharmaceutical Strategy”, says John Bachynsky, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chairperson of the Seniors Citizens Health Council. “Our position is that the purpose of a pharmacare plan should be to maximize the health of all citizens through the appropriate and safe provision of medications and should therefore be an integral part of our healthcare system similar to most other OECD countries.”

“Like other areas of health care, there is no room for means-testing as a barrier to preventing people getting the drugs they need,” says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “Asking chronically ill people to pay a given percentage of their incomes towards their required medicines is the same as taxing them for their poor health.”

“It is appropriate that we are releasing this position paper on Halloween as this proposed new drug plan is more trick than treat”, says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “We know that the government backed down to pressure from seniors groups when the same plan was introduced by former Health Minister Ron Liepert, so we will be educating and mobilizing people to speak out through our eleven city tour on this issue.”

Public Interest Alberta, Friends of Medicare and Parkland Institute will be hosting eleven public forums around Alberta on seniors care issues starting next week in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Calgary, Sundry and Red Deer. The full schedule of the forums is available here – the PIA Senior Task Force Position Paper on Pharmacare (PDF)