Ontario taxpayers receive nothing but bad news from their politicians on drugs.
In April 2017, both the Liberal government and the opposition NDP proposed expensive drug plans. The one proposed by Liberals took effect on Jan. 1, to the detriment of the public purse. It isn’t a prescription for affordable public health, it’s a prescription for an election win. (The next provincial election must be held by June 7.)
Both drug plans are simply about politics – just look at their timing. On April 23, 2017, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath revealed a $475-million plan to cover Ontarians of any age. Just four days later, the Liberal budget dedicated $465 million to create full coverage of 4,400 prescription drugs for all residents under 25 years of age.
For what it’s worth – and it’s not $475 million – the NDP plan makes more sense. It offers to fund a limited number of drugs and doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age.
By contrast, the Liberals’ drug plan covers seniors and social assistance families, along with children and young adults. Why pay for children and young adults but not the 25-to-65 age group? Are some age groups inherently more worthy of drugs?
Both proposals suffer from the same flaw as the healthcare system itself: moral hazard. People are more likely to overuse anything they don’t have to pay for. That makes drug costs go up, not down.
This means Canadians will pay more in the end, except the costs will be disguised as taxes. Free prescription drugs skew health solutions away from exercise, meditation and other healthy lifestyles, and push towards chemical solutions.
Increased drug use only spreads the financial burden to those taxpayers who don’t qualify for the drug plans.
Those who insist it’s immoral that people pay for their own healthcare or drug treatment can’t explain why it’s better to make someone else to pay for it. Nevertheless, ideologues of ‘free’ healthcare claim the moral high ground to rebuff very practical questions.
“Why should a millionaire’s child have their drugs covered by taxpayers?” one reporter asked last April.
“You want to income test and we’re not doing that when it comes to our children,” Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa replied. “Universal healthcare applies to everybody equally.”
Past and current excessive government spending means each of those children carry $22,055 of provincial debt and $17,684 of federal debt. Is that a healthy start to life?
No, but some Ontario leaders couldn’t care less.
“When necessary a deficit, but not necessarily a deficit,” Horwath said right after announcing her party’s drug plan proposal.
A deficit is not necessary. Neither is a fully-funded public drug plan.
These political prescriptions for an election win will make few healthier and many poorer – and it’s enough to make taxpayers sick.
Lee Harding is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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