Seniors Won't Pay More
Department of Health (To Jan. 11)
January 8, 2010 4:27 PM
NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece by Health Minister Maureen MacDonald.
The government is committed to making life better and more affordable for Nova Scotians. This is particularly important for seniors.
I've spoken with many seniors, and the cost of prescription drugs is often a concern. The government is committed to keeping program costs as low as possible, which is why we are not increasing Seniors' Pharmacare premiums or co-payments this year.
Seniors understand that drug spending by government has been going up. In fact, the cost of the Seniors' Pharmacare Program is growing annually by about five per cent - up to $195 million this year. Despite this increase, the co-payments and premiums are not going up. That's a pretty good insurance program.
What's happening is that more and more seniors at higher income levels are joining the program. This affects what seniors as a group end up paying into the program. Quite simply, higher income seniors pay the maximum premium, which means more money comes into the program from seniors collectively. However, individual seniors are protected when we hold the line on the premiums and co-payments.
Here's how it breaks down. Last year, taxpayers covered almost 74 per cent of the program costs, while seniors covered about 26 per cent. This year, taxpayers will contribute the same overall dollar amount, but cover about 73 per cent of costs overall. Seniors collectively will pay about 27 per cent.
While we remain committed to keeping costs for seniors as low as possible, we believe this is a reasonable balance between taxpayers and seniors, who are the direct beneficiaries of the program.
Seniors are taxpayers too. They understand the serious financial challenges facing the province. While I'm sure seniors would have preferred to see a reduction in premiums and co-payments, in the face of escalating program costs and a massive deficit, holding the line seems to be a fair compromise.
In the long run, the challenge is to find ways to provide access to much needed medications without breaking the bank. That's why the government is going to create a new drug management unit to lead this work. We are also taking a close look at the various pharmacare programs we offer, so that they are fair for all those who need prescription medications, especially seniors.
Media Contact: Nicole Watkins Campbell
Department of Health