On December 9, 2014, New Brunswick’s Health Minister, Honourable Victor Boudreau announced that the government will eliminate the mandatory requirement for drug coverage under the Prescription and Catastrophic Drug Insurance Act that was scheduled to come into effect on April 1, 2015.  This change also means that the obligations under the Act to extend drug coverage to private sector retiree plans and health spending accounts have also been eliminated.  Despite the name of the Act, this program would have been an extremely expensive, administratively-complicated universal drug plan that would have likely created challenges for businesses and hardship for low-income New Brunswickers without insurance.

By amending the Act, the government will engage stakeholders in yet another consultation regarding how to structure the prescription drug plan for uninsured New Brunswickers over the long term.  The Minister did not commit to a timeline for the completion of the review but he did state that the review would not consider mandatory contributions from the private sector to help fund the drug plan.  The Minister also stated that he would like to see future consultations on this drug plan involve the other Atlantic provinces, or Maritime provinces, at least.

This is a major victory for Retail Council of Canada (RCC), members of the New Brunswick business community and poverty reduction advocates were concerned about the high costs of the drug plan premiums on low and modest income New Brunswickers.

Most New Brunswickers agree that the province needs to have prescription drug coverage for uninsured New Brunswickers.  However, RCC believes that the plan should be structured so that it is affordable for those who need it; harmonized with other plans across the region and/or across Canada; and be funded by government and the users of the plan.

Member To Do

RCC will participate in the government’s consultation regarding how to structure the prescription drug plan for uninsured New Brunswickers over the long term.  RCC encourages all interested RCC members with employees in New Brunswick to participate in these stakeholder sessions. 

What RCC Did/Next Steps

RCC advocated directly with both the current and former Premier and Minister of Health to communicate the concerns of New Brunswick retailers regarding the drug plan.  RCC also continues to participate as a member of the New Brunswick Coalition of Employers.  This is a loose coalition that works together on issues of significant concern to all employers in the province.  The Coalition played a significant role in ensuring that the Drug Plan was amended.

RCC will participate in the stakeholder sessions to ensure that the Drug Plan’s structure is changed from universal to catastrophic coverage.  Without such a change, the program could quickly become an extremely expensive program for New Brunswick taxpayers.

RCC has always supported the push for New Brunswick to develop a drug plan for uninsured New Brunswickers.  In fact, New Brunswick is currently the only province in the country without such a plan.  However, RCC continues to advocate that New Brunswick’s plan should be harmonized with its neighbouring provinces.  For instance, Nova Scotia and PEI have catastrophic drug plans for the uninsured that are funded out of general revenues; that are means tested, that do not charge premiums but that do charge a deductible.  The programs in Nova Scotia and PEI are successful yet affordable.

Background

Since the introduction of the Prescription and Catastrophic Drug Insurance Act in the New Brunswick legislature in December 2013, RCC has joined with other industry associations in advocating for amendments to this Act.  Specifically, RCC opposed the following:

  • A drug plan offering universal drug coverage when all other provinces (except Quebec) offer catastrophic coverage plans.
  • The program being mandatory for all uninsured New Brunswickers.
  • Forcing employers with a drug plan to ensure that their plan would be at least as comprehensive as the government’s Drug Plan Formulary.  Private drug plans do not have the capability to negotiate the same prices for drugs that can be negotiated by government.
  • The obligation for an employer’s plan to include part-time workers, an employee’s family members; and to not deny coverage based on age or pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Instituting a payroll tax to pay for such a program. 

RCC supports the government’s plan to explore options for a regional drug plan.

For the current program, the government has provided two new additional premium categories for low income New Brunswickers who choose to join the New Brunswick drug plan.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at:  [email protected] or (902) 422-4144