FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has received the report, An Insurance Plan for Prescription Drugs for Uninsured New Brunswickers, from the Advisory Committee on Health Benefits.

The committee was asked to develop a mechanism to provide a prescription drug plan to the 70,000 uninsured families in New Brunswick. This totals about 150,000 individuals.

The committee, chaired by Dr. Dennis Furlong, researched drug insurance plans in other provinces and consulted the public and stakeholder groups.

“Our goal is to develop a plan that will make sure each New Brunswicker has drug coverage,” said Health Minister Hugh Flemming. “The report will be the basis of this insurance plan that will help prevent all New Brunswickers from experiencing financial hardship because of prescription drug costs. We know that high drug costs can be catastrophic for some families. The government will move swiftly to consider the options in the report and will move ahead with implementing an insurance plan as quickly as possible.”
Recommendations in the report include:

●    the insurance plan should be mandatory for all uninsured New Brunswickers;
●    the plan should have affordable premiums to be paid by those enrolled, and low-income families should be subsidized;
●    employers who do not already offer an insurance plan must contribute to the new insurance plan;
●    there should be no barriers to access such as pre-existing medical conditions, waiting period, etc., and no annual or lifetime limit on benefits;
●    the plan should cover approved drugs that are assessed through the standard national evidenced-based drug review processes currently used by public drug plans across Canada; and
●    private drug plans should be as good as the new drug insurance plan.

“I am confident that with the options presented in the report, the government will be able to develop an insurance plan that will benefit the majority of uninsured New Brunswickers and those who have very high drug costs relative to income,” said Furlong. “The options presented to the government will give everyone equal access to the medications they need to be healthy; will help people better manage chronic disease; and will allow people on social assistance to continue to have drug coverage after they join the workforce.”

The Advisory Committee on Health Benefits includes:

●    Dr. Dennis Furlong, Dalhousie, chair;
●    Derek Oland, Saint John;
●    Anne Hébert, Bouctouche;
●    Juanita Black, Saint John;
●    Jacques-François Levesque, Grand Falls;
●    Ron Gathercole, Moncton;
●    Jean-Roch Cayouette, Saint-Quentin;
●    Mary Anne Leblanc, Saint John;
●    Barry Cohen Thorley, Grand-Bay Westfield; and
●    Mike Blanchard, Bath.

“I offer my sincere thanks to all the members of the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation's Advisory Committee on Health Benefits for their hard work and dedication to this important file,” said Healthy and Inclusive Communities Minister Dorothy Shephard. “I also thank committee chair Dr. Dennis Furlong for his commitment to making drug coverage a reality for all New Brunswickers. Providing everyone with affordable drug coverage is an important milestone on the path to dealing with a significant economic and social barrier in this province.”

The Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation was established in 2010 to lead and co-ordinate the implementation of the province's poverty reduction plan and to ensure the delivery of anti-poverty initiatives at the community level. The corporation formed the Advisory Committee on Health Benefits in the fall of 2010 to develop a vision and dental plan for all low-income New Brunswick children and to develop a mechanism to provide a prescription drug plan to all uninsured New Brunswickers, both of which have now been completed.

The report can be found on the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation's website.