Government to cover prescriptions for lowest income earners

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VICTORIA, B.C. — Health Minister Adrian Dix announced today that the B.C. government is eliminating PharmaCare deductibles for members of the lowest income bracket in the province.

The government said it will be spending $105 million in Fair PharmaCare over three years, which it says will eliminate or reduce deductibles for 240,000 families. All families with household net incomes under $45,000 will benefit. Families with net annual incomes between $15,000 and $30,000 will pay zero deductible starting January 1st next year. Co-payments will also be eliminated for families with a family member aged 79 or older with net incomes below $13,750, and lowered for all families with net incomes under $45,000.

Prior to these changes, Fair PharmaCare families faced relatively large jumps in their deductibles, as incomes increased past certain thresholds. Deductibles went from $0 to $300 when a family’s income reached $15,000 and jumped another $300, from $600 to $900, when a family’s net income reached $30,000.

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“No parent should have to make the difficult decision between their family’s health and putting food on the table,” said Dix. “The investment we’re announcing today will make life more affordable for British Columbians while making sure they get the care they need. This is a crucial step forward in improving the health and lives of thousands of British Columbians. We know that in families earning under $30,000 in net income, needed prescriptions go unfilled too often because PharmaCare deductibles are too high. The step we’re taking today is a significant one, as deductibles have not been changed in 15 years.”

According to an analysis by the Ministry of Health, the jumps deductibles are often accompanied by decreases in drug spending, suggesting that families are not filling prescriptions due to affordability. The analysis also found that families earning under $45,000 are also less likely to fill prescriptions or make trade-offs with other essentials, like groceries, heat and housing.

“Prescription drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them,” said Dr. Michael Law, Canada research chair in access to medicines at the University of British Columbia. “Research shows that many people in this province have not filled or skipped prescriptions because of the cost, and these changes being announced will improve health outcomes by significantly increasing access to important and effective medicines.”

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