Single-payer pharmacare plan would be a ‘disaster’ – CLHIA chair | Insurance Business Canada

The insurance industry can be ‘part of the solution’

Single-payer pharmacare plan would be a 'disaster' – CLHIA chair

Life & Health

Gia Snape

An insurance industry association leader has slammed plans to establish a universal single-payer pharmacare system in Canada and called on the government to allow the insurance industry to be “part of the solution” when it comes to plugging healthcare coverage gaps for Canadians.

Denis Ricard, chair of the board of the directors of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), has raised alarm over the Canada Pharmacare Act, which was tabled in parliament last month.

“There’s a danger that if the government comes up with a one-payer type of plan, there’s going to be cracks in the system, and less coverage for Canadians,” Ricard said. “A fully one-payer national pharmacare is going to be a disaster for this country.”

Ricard is also the president and CEO of iA Financial Group, one of Canada’s largest insurance and wealth management groups.

“In terms of administering it and setting up the plans, it would be a huge endeavour. We know how the government has had some issues implementing systems in the past,” he added, referring to the government’s infamous Phoenix pay system that saw many federal employees unpaid or underpaid for long periods of time.

What is in the NDP’s pharmacare bill?

According to CBC, the pharmacare bill, tabled by the NDP, is aimed at pressuring the Liberal government to speed up the creation of a national universal pharmacare program.

The legislation supposedly has little chance of passing through Parliament without the support of the Liberals, CBC reported.

“I don’t think the government is there. But it’s important for our organization that we make the case for Canadians, that they will lose in this if for any reason, the plan goes national,” Ricard said.

One issue is whether the federal government can afford the costs of a fully national pharmacare program, the insurance leader pointed out.

“The cost will be absolutely ludicrous,” he said. “And that means that income taxes will have to go up to fund it.”

The government is still consulting with provinces and experts on its own pharmacare bill and plans to table it by the end of the year, according to a report by Global News.

Insurance industry ‘can play a significant role’

Ricard, who was elected to the CLHIA chairmanship earlier this year, said that one of the association’s main priorities is to collaborate with governments, regulators and other stakeholders to ensure adequate coverage for all Canadians.

 “We acknowledge that there are some issues in the current system, and there are some Canadians that are not covered,” he said. “We believe that the industry can play a significant role.”

CLHIA is a membership-based not-for-profit organization that represents 99% of Canada’s life and health insurance companies. Its members offer a wide range of products and services to Canadians, including individual and group life insurance, supplementary health insurance and individual and group annuities.

For Ricard, CLHIA is also an advocacy organization that aims to be involved in conversations and to strive for win-win outcomes.

“We don’t want to be an adversary to governments. We want to be part of the solution,” he said. “We want to be at the table to design a health system that covers everyone for drugs in Canada. That’s what we are proposing as an industry. We have the same goal as the government, which is covering Canadians.”

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