Canadians are facing a serious issue with timely access and affordability of health care. In a recent article by the Cameron Institute, Dr. John A. Bachynsky discusses the gaps in Canadian health coverage, which he explains is caused by the provincial health ministries focus on price reduction. The ironic thing is that cheaper drugs do not necessarily lead to a lower health care expenditure. It’s related to the utilization of the medication.
Bachynsky expands on this with the example wherein a drug was priced at $300,000, but since only two patients needed it, its total expenditure was only $600,000. Many drugs that are priced more affordably end up having a much higher expenditure do to higher utilization of the drug. It may be more beneficial for the focus to be on providing patients the most effective drug specific to their disease, as it will reduce the chances of the patients needing increased medication in the future.
The problem, according to Bachynsky, is that “Canadian government drug plans use the comparison with older, generic drugs which do the same thing at a lower price” (p.4, 2016). Instead, they should be focusing on introducing more specific improved drugs into the market. New drugs are often viewed negatively due to being seen as a price increase. Bachynsky explains this is because the government supports multiple groups that restrict access to drugs and that they label the prices of new drugs as price increases even though there is no prior price to compare it to (p.3,4).
With all of all the focus being on the high price of drugs and the government not being able to afford them, it’s surprising to learn that drug expenditures only make up 8% of health care costs. This is because the government focuses on alternative therapeutic treatments to drug therapy, which consist of diagnostic tests, surgeries, referrals to specialists, and regular emergency hospital care. Not only are these alternative treatments expensive, they are in short supply.
The other, and bigger issue than high drug costs for the government is the high cost for patients. If the government can’t afford the drugs then how are the patients supposed to? Although many Canadians have medical coverage, it’s tied to employment, which means some Canadians end up falling in gaps. Those who are retired and or face chronic diseases are the people that need the most coverage yet ironically are the people that end up falling in the gaps where they aren’t eligible to receive it.
The government has the responsibility to help those that fall in the gaps. Health care should meet the unique needs of every patient. In the current system, if a patient wants the most effective treatment specific to their illness, they have to cover the cost. The result is that patients skip taking medications or don’t seek out appropriate treatment, which ends up increasing costs on the health care system in the future.
In order to help fill these gaps, Bachynsky recommends switching the current funding model from focusing on alternative treatments to fund medication that has better therapeutic results. Yes, it might have high upfront costs in the initial developmental stages, but in the long term it will reduce the stress and financial burden on hospitals and physicians that come from the current funded alternative treatments. More importantly, Canadians will be receiving the best treatment to treat their disease.
For more on this topic, check out the original Bachynsky article here.