Canada budget to include limited coverage for prescription drugs – sources

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s Liberal government will propose a limited expansion to the country’s universal healthcare system in the spring budget to cover part of the cost of prescription drugs, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The modest broadening of the healthcare program is set to become one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s key campaign promises ahead of the October election, which is shaping up to be a close fight.

The government would not commit to meeting 100 percent of the cost of prescription drugs for those who have no insurance through their workplace, the sources said. That suggests the government is leaning toward a narrower, more insurance industry-friendly model of pharmacare, as it is called, than that recommended by a government health committee last year.

A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau declined to comment.

Officials have yet to decide how much detail to provide about the pharmacare system in the budget, which is expected in the week of March 18, the sources said. They may release a general commitment to boost coverage and leave the specifics for the campaign, they added.

But new information on pharmacare’s inclusion in the spring budget and its limited scope gives a first glimpse of the government’s blueprint for what has been called the “unfinished business” of Canada’s publicly funded healthcare system, called medicare.

The sources, who spoke in recent days, requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Canada’s health system covers care provided in hospitals and doctors’ offices, but prescription medication remains largely the purview of private insurance, often offered through employers, and a patchwork of public plans geared primarily toward the old and the very poor.

Opinion polls consistently show strong popularity for Canada’s public healthcare system.

There have been calls for Canada to extend medicare to include prescription drugs since medicare came into existence in the late 1960s, and multiple studies have recommended its inclusion.

Surveys have found 20 percent of Canadians are either uninsured for prescription drugs or under-insured, and one in 10 Canadians goes without prescription medications because of an inability to afford them, according to the standing committee on health’s pharmacare report released in April 2018.

Manulife Financial Corp, Sun Life Financial Inc and Great West LifeCo are among the major insurers in Canada.


The Liberal-dominated government health committee strongly recommended Canada adopt a universal, national pharmacare program that covers drug expenditures for all Canadians for a wide range of drugs.

That would not only improve equity and access, advocates said, but lower drug costs because there would only be one buyer negotiating with pharmaceutical companies.

The government’s budget watchdog estimated that would cost about C$20.4 billion ($15.5 billion) a year – a hefty price tag for the government, but offering an overall saving of C$4.2 billion compared with the total now spent on prescription drugs.

What the government is likely to include in its budget is a much more targeted plan aimed at filling the gaps in coverage not already filled by private insurance or existing public plans, the sources said.

That matches with the government’s finance committee recommendation late last year, which Morneau, himself a former benefits industry executive, has said he would prefer.

It is also in line with what the insurance industry has been asking for. Standing to lose business to a universal government plan, the insurers have argued that most Canadians have good private coverage and that pharmacare changes need only affect a small uninsured minority.

But the Liberals will likely face criticism from policy advocates and left-leaning political opponents for not pursuing a more comprehensive plan. Without a universal system overhaul, advocates argue, people will continue to slip through costly cracks in the coverage system.

An advisory council appointed to study the implementation of pharmacare is expected to come out with recommendations this spring.

#Unsinkable – Silken Laumann empowers CDN’s to walk the talk when it comes to mental health

#Unsinkable – Silken Laumann empowers CDN’s to walk the talk when it comes to mental health



Together, we are #Unsinkable

Get ready to feel inspired, Canadians. Silken Laumann reveals UNSINKABLE, a story-sharing platform to empower Canadians to walk the talk when it comes to mental health. UNSINKABLE will host stories of courage, resiliency, transformation and the strategies behind the success. Canadians can expect stories from everyday Canadians, well-known Canadians, Canadian youth and Canadian health experts.

Motivated by her own personal struggles and eventual triumph to greatness, Laumann dreamed of connecting and inspiring people through personal experiences on a large digital scale. The dialogue around mental health has shifted significantly since the launch of Bell Let’s Talk and UNSINKABLE will give Canadians strategies they can apply to everyday life.

“We have all struggled. Sharing our stories and the strategies that helped us is a gift to others. Collectively, our lived experience has tremendous power to provide hope, help, and inspiration. I created UNSINKABLE to give Canadians a voice, an outlet and a supportive community. I want Canadians to know that together, we really are unsinkable,” says Laumann.

With the support of partner GoodLife Fitness, UNSINKABLE encourages Canadians to talk about their mental health by sharing personal stories and the strategies they use for better living. UNSINKABLE will also host health experts sharing insights and perspectives on issues facing the health of Canadians.

UNSINKABLE is a not-for-profit project that expects collaborations with organizations like Elizz (powered by SE Health Care), The Canadian Mental Health Association, Mood Disorders Canada and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

You can visit the website for a sneak peek of stories before the official launch on April 3, 2019.

Social Media: 
Hashtag: #Unsinkable 
Twitter: @BeingUnsinkable 

About Silken Laumann

Silken Laumann is a four-time Olympian and one of Canada’s most inspirational leaders, a best-selling author, and a child and mental health advocate. Silken’s Olympic story is legendary and inspirational.  As reigning world champion, Silken fought back from a devastating rowing injury, to win a bronze medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics. Silken speaks candidly about her athletic success and triumph over physical adversity, but also the intense personal challenges of her past and the fierce determination she applies to living a bold, loving and successful life today.


Empire Life adds Best Doctors services to group plans

KINGSTON, Ontario, Nov. 27, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Empire Life Insurance Company (“Empire Life”) (TSX: EML.PR.A) will automatically include the Best DoctorsⓇ suite of expert medical and care navigation services in its group benefit plans, starting December 1, 2018. Best Doctors services bring together top physicians worldwide—selected through ongoing peer-to-peer polling—to help employees navigate our complex health care system and improve health outcomes. Best Doctors is a service of Teladoc Health, a global leader in virtual care.

Small and medium-sized businesses with extended health benefits provided by Empire Life will be eligible for five Best Doctors services:

A leading expert will perform an in-depth analysis of an employee’s medical data, including diagnostic imaging, test results and pathology samples when appropriate. Then they provide recommendations in a detailed, confidential report. Employees are invited to share the findings with their own doctor, should they choose.

Employees can get help searching for the right specialist. The FindBestDoc team researches options and provides employees with a comprehensive report to share with the treating physician, who can then make a referral.

If an employee needs to see a specialist outside of Canada, the FindBestCare team will search their global database of over 50,000 physicians in more than 450 specialties and subspecialties.

Best Doctors 3600 Ⓡ A Member Advocate can help employees get the information they need on a variety of health topics, offering peace of mind that they’re making well-informed decisions about their health care.

Medical Records eSummaryTM
Up to three years of an employee’s medical history can be collected and delivered in a convenient, secure digital file. A medical expert reviews the records and provides a health alert summary, bringing any potential health concerns to the employee’s attention.

“We’re delighted to bring this outstanding service to our customers,” said Michael Perry, Vice President, Group Product and Marketing.“ Empire Life is on a mission to make group benefits simple, fast and easy for Canadians. By automatically including Best Doctors services in our group plans, we’re adding convenience and helping people get the right diagnosis, the right treatment and the peace of mind they deserve.”

“We’re honoured to partner with Empire Life,” said Robin Cooper, vice president, strategic relationships, Teladoc Health. “As forward-thinking Canadian employers and plan sponsors work to help their members navigate the health care system and get the medical answers they need, this suite of Best Doctors services will help connect members seamlessly to leading experts and the peace of mind that comes with the right guidance.”

About Empire Life

Established in 1923 and a subsidiary of E-L Financial Corporation Limited, Empire Life provides individual and group life and health insurance, investment and retirement products to Canadians. The company’s mission is to make it simple, fast and easy for Canadians to get the investment, insurance and group benefits coverage they need to build wealth, generate income, and achieve financial security. As of September 30, 2018 Empire Life had total assets under management of $17.2 billion. Follow Empire Life on Twitter @EmpireLife or visit for more information.

Contact: Shelly Potter
613 548-1890, ext. 4348 or

About Teladoc Health
Best Doctors is part of Teladoc Health, Inc., a mission-driven organization successfully transforming how people access and experience healthcare, with a focus on high quality, lower costs, and improved outcomes around the world. The company’s award-winning, integrated clinical solutions are inclusive of telehealth, expert medical services, AI and analytics, and licensable platform services. With more than 2,000 employees, the organization delivers care in 125 countries and in more than 20 languages, partnering with employers, hospitals and health systems, and insurers to transform care delivery. For more information, please visit or follow @TeleadocHealth on Twitter.

Contact: Justin Joseph

Parks Canada allowing pot use at campsites, hiking trails

Bob Boughner, Chatham Daily News 

Parks Canada announced this week that marijuana can be consumed at its campsites – part of a policy of offering visitors a consistent and predictable experience at national parks across the country.

In some provinces, including Ontario, campers will be allowed to smoke pot on hiking trails as long as the trails aren’t within the campgrounds themselves. Marijuana won’t be permitted in common areas within campgrounds such as playgrounds, kitchen shelters, washrooms, parking areas or roads within Parks Canada’s network of parks, national historic sites, national marine conservation areas and historic waterways. Parks Canada’s approach to cannabis will be similar to its policy on the possession and consumption of alcohol.

Parks Canada officials say campers should learn about provincial and municipal laws on cannabis before bringing marijuana to a national park and warn that pot impairment can increase the risk of serious injury.

Canadians will be allowed to take up to 30 grams of cannabis with them on domestic flights and the legal amount can be carried in either a checked bag or carry-on. It remains illegal to transport cannabis outside of Canada even to another jurisdiction where it’s legal.

Federal gov’t risks ignoring existing provincial drug insurance plans in push for national program

Provincial Drug Coverage for Vulnerable Canadians

Despite widespread misperceptions, every province already provides prescription drug coverage to help Canadians—particularly seniors and lower-income Canadians—pay for pharmaceuticals, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“Much of the discussion about a possible national pharmacare plan seemingly assumes there’s no existing government help for Canadians to pay for medicines they need—but that’s just not true,” said Bacchus Barua, associate director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute and co-author of Provincial Drug Coverage for Vulnerable Canadians.

The study summarizes provincial drug programs across the country and finds that, while levels of coverage vary by province, three key vulnerable groups, namely lower-income Canadians, seniors, and Canadians on social assistance have access to prescription drugs, paid in full or in part by provincial governments.

Provincial governments across Canada also provide drug coverage to select populations who may face considerable hardships as a result of either their medical care costs or other factors including the severely disabled and those diagnosed with conditions like multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis.

Crucially, provinces are able to establish prescription drug plans to suit their particular priorities, population age, income levels and other factors, which differ from province to province. This customization would likely be lost or at least diluted if Canada adopts a national program.

“Provinces can tailor drug plans to suit their individual needs, but a single-payer national pharmacare system would put an end to that,” said Yanick Labrie, a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute who specializes in health and pharmaceutical economics.

“Instead of a drug program modelled on our inflexible health-care system, we should instead seek to understand what gaps exist in our provincial plans and target resources to Canadians who need assistance.”

Follow the Fraser Institute onTwitter and Facebook

The Fraser Institute is an independent Cnadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit


Young Canadians face heightened crash risk after consuming cannabis, new study finds

Young Canadians are more at risk of a vehicle crash even five hours after inhaling cannabis, according to results of a clinical trial conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University, and funded by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).

The research found that performance declined significantly, in key areas such as reaction time, even five hours after inhaling the equivalent of less than one typical joint. The participants’ driving performance, which was tested in a driving simulator, deteriorated as soon as they were exposed to the kinds of distractions common on the road.

The peer-reviewed study is published online today at 6:00 a.m. EST at CMAJ Open, an online sister journal to CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The trial examined the impact of cannabis on the driving ability of 18 to 24 year old occasional users. CAA polling has found that a significant number of young Canadians – one in five – believe they are as good or better drivers stoned as they are sober.

“This new trial provides important Canadian evidence that cannabis can affect the skills needed to drive safely even five hours after consuming,” said Jeff Walker, CAA chief strategy officer. “The message is simple. If you consume, don’t drive. Find another way home or stay where you are.”

“This rigorous experimental trial adds to a growing body of scientific literature on cannabis use and driving,” said study co-author Isabelle Gélinas, a researcher in McGill’s School of Physical and Occupational Therapy. “The findings provide new evidence on the extent to which driving-related performance is compromised following a typical dose of inhaled cannabis, even at five hours after use.”

Under controlled conditions, researchers tested driving-related performance of young Canadians in a simulated environment, at intervals up to five hours after they had consumed cannabis. Participants were also tested with no cannabis in their system to set a baseline.

While the participants showed no significant effects when there were no distractions, as soon as conditions became more realistic, driving-related performance reduced significantly. In addition, a large percentage of the young drivers reported they did not feel as safe to drive after consuming cannabis, even five hours after use.

“When you feel you are not safe to drive you are right – you are not!” Walker said.

“CAA is committed to doing its part in furthering this important road safety issue, but governments must step up too,” Walker added. “We need funding earmarked specifically to study the effects of cannabis on driving – research that covers the spectrum from basic research to on-road safety initiatives.”

About the study

The CAA-funded study was conducted by a multidisciplinary research team at the Centre for Innovative Medicine (CIM) of the RI-MUHC, under the supervision of Drs. Nicol Korner-Bitensky and Isabelle Gélinas, leading driving researchers, and Dr. Mark Ware, a leading cannabis researcher. The driving simulator used in the study was supplied by Virage Simulation, a Montreal-based company. The lead author, Dr. Tatiana Ogourtsova, is a post-doctoral fellow. Ms. Maja Kalaba, a junior epidemiologist at the MUHC, was project coordinator. (As of July 1, 2018, Dr. Ware became an employee of Canopy Growth Corporation, a Canadian licensed producer of medical cannabis; as of that date, he had no further involvement in analysis of the data for the study.)

Participants in this randomized clinical trial were between the ages of 18 and 24 years old and recreational users of cannabis (i.e. used cannabis at least once in the past three months, but not more than four times per week). The trial tested their driving related performance on four different days using a state-of-the-art driving simulator and a Useful Field of View test. Testing was randomized to occur 1 hour, 3 hours and 5 hours after they had consumed cannabis. They used a medical grade vaporizer to consume a dose of 100 mg dried cannabis flowers containing 13% THC over several inhalations. A typical joint is 300-500 mg of dried cannabis. Full details of the study are available here as of 6 am ET on Oct. 15.

SOURCE Canadian Automobile Association

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