"Under the Seniors' Drug Plan, all Saskatchewan residents 65 years of age and older are eligible. Seniors will be automatically covered based on Health Registration Card information; no application is required. The program will go into effect on July 1, 2007.
Low-income seniors receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement, Saskatchewan Income Plan or Special Support coverage who currently pay less than $15 per prescription will continue to do so. Palliative care patients and those covered by Saskatchewan Aids to Independent Living (SAIL) will continue to receive Saskatchewan Formulary drugs at no cost."
-from the Government of Saskatchewan website http://www.gov.sk.ca/budget0708/drugplan
The Saskatchewan Prescription Drug Plan will cost Saskatchewan taxpayers $262,485,000 this year, up from $201,936,000 last year (from:http://www.gov.sk.ca/adx/aspx/adxGetMedia.aspx?DocID=799,1,Documents&MediaID=973&Filename=07-08-Finance-BudgetEstimates-En.pdf). Although I couldn't find a breakdown of how much this $15 plan will cost the taxpayers, as a pharmacist, let me tell you thats it a lot.
Now, I don't have a problem with paying for necessary medications, in fact I'm all for ensuring that people have quick and affordable access to necessary drugs. So whats my problem with this new drug plan aimed at those over 65? They already had a system set up for lower income families who needed the subsidy. No one in Saskatchewan should want for medications... there has been a formula for years that compares how much you make to your drug expenditures and ensures that you get access to those medications. So if these seniors actually needed a medication to live but couldn't afford it, the government paid for it already. This new drug plan isn't really helping anyone and its costing us millions of dollars that could go to other causes, such as helping those with mental illness, community healthcare and education about preventing disease.
Many seniors have a large bank account to begin with, they don't need the government's help to pay for their Lipitor or Pariet. Of course they appreciate it, which shows that this is simply a vote buying tactic. Schizophrenic people don't vote in numbers like the penny pinching seniors, now do they, so why would we spend money on them?
As far as the launch of this program goes, the government effed it up too. Watching ads on this plan and reading articles, one would expect that if you're over 65 all you will have to pay is 15 bucks for anything. Most people don't understand what the formulary is or care to learn about it. So they get pissed when certain medications, Viagra, for instance, aren't covered by this new plan. They get pissed that they have to pay $15 for each medication, not just their total for the month, and they don't understand why the pharmacist is ripping them off.
Yes, we, the pharmacists who are helping you get your medications are ripping you off. Maybe the government should have explained that the formulary is a list of drugs that they will pay for. Drugs that are not listed in the formulary will not be covered. There is a seperate list called EDS drugs for which you need to be approved by Sask Health before you can receive these medications for $15. Where was that in the ads? Common medicines for the elderly such as alendronate, the PPI's, etc are generally listed as EDS drugs. Why were the public not informed of all the intricacies of the plan before it was rolled out? Why did the government not back up the pharmacists who were out there administering this plan? We're stuck looking like the bad guys, as if we're in charge of what they have to pay.
Also, people are now using more medications. Instead of trying cheaper alternatives, now they're all the same price, so lets take them all! Instead of preventing heart disease through lifestyle management, now you can treat it for the low low price of $15 per month! More money for another Big Mac, eh?
In summary, I think this is a stupid way to spend money. This program doesn't benefit the people who need it the most, it only benefits those who will vote NDP. I hope they scrap it soon, because right now we're cashing tomorrow's cheque to pay for the past. Stupid.