TORONTO, Jan. 30, 2013 /CNW/ - How good is your drug insurance coverage? It depends on where you live and whether you are publicly or privately insured. A new study shows that people insured under public drug plans have relatively limited access to new medicines; some public plans cover more new drugs than others; and people insured under private-sector drug plans have far better access to new medicines.
The study is the first annual report on the topic published by the Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI). Using data from Health Canada and IMS Brogan, researchers compared access to new medicines for patients covered under each of the 11 federal and provincial public drug programs across Canada, as well as between public and private-sector drug plans.
The federal government operates five separate public drug plans covering about 1 million people. Aboriginal peoples account for most of the federally insured population and are covered under the Non-insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program. The provinces and territories separately operate their own public drug plans for eligible residents of their jurisdictions covering about 10.3 million people in total, most of whom are seniors or lower-income families. Over 23 million Canadians have private drug insurance, mostly as a benefit obtained through employment. It is estimated that an additional 700,000 Canadians have no insurance to pay for drugs.
The study found that drug insurance benefits are different from plan-to-plan. Some plans cover full and immediate access to the latest and most advanced medicines available. Other plans cover only a small fraction of all the drugs certified safe and effective by Health Canada.
Averaged across all federal/provincial public plans only 20.5% (of all the new drugs approved by Health Canada from 2004-2011) were insured and patients waited 659 days for insured access. Between jurisdictions, Quebec had the most generous public insurance coverage for new drugs (38.9%) and Manitoba had the least generous (12.6%). The wait for publicly insured access was shortest in Quebec (430 days) and longest in Prince Edward Island (908 days). In a private-public comparison across the country, 81% of new drugs were insured by at least one private plan compared to 47% by at least one public plan, and patients covered under private plans waited 127 days for insured access, compared to 467 days for patients covered under public plans.
According to CHPI CEO Brett Skinner, "good drug insurance should provide financial protection from the unexpected and unaffordable cost of necessary medications should you or your family become ill. Our study helps to raise public awareness about differences in the insurance coverage provided to patients under Canada's various drug insurance plans."
Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI) is a non-profit think-tank. CHPI is funded by independent research grants and unrestricted operating grants from public sector, private sector and non-profit sector sources. CHPI is dedicated to conducting, publishing and communicating evidence-based socio-economic research on health system performance and health policy issues that are important to Canadians. CHPI's work is published in the online journal Canadian Health Policy, www.canadianhealthpolicy.com.
SOURCE: Canadian Health Policy Institute
For further information:
Dr. Brett J Skinner (Ph.D.), CEO, Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI)