FREDERICTON (GNB) – A comprehensive review of the New Brunswick Drug Plan will be completed and the mandatory requirement for New Brunswickers to have prescription drug insurance will be eliminated, under an act introduced today at the legislative assembly.

“Our government is committed to reviewing the New Brunswick Drug Plan to ensure that its costs are reasonable for individuals, its coverage is sufficient and employers are not subject to a required contribution,” said Health Minister Victor Boudreau. “Our government will also provide additional premium relief to lower-income individuals to ensure costs, for those that choose to join the New Brunswick Drug Plan, are fair and reasonable.”

Boudreau introduced amendments to the Prescription and Catastrophic Drug Insurance Act that will allow the government to eliminate the April 1, 2015 mandatory requirement for New Brunswickers to have prescription drug insurance. The government will also create two new premiums for low-income earners in the New Brunswick Drug Plan.

“This is a temporary solution,” said Boudreau. “The New Brunswick Drug Plan will continue as a voluntary plan until a comprehensive review is completed.  Furthermore, it is not our intention to introduce any mandatory contributions from employers.”

The amended voluntary drug plan will continue to be a premium and copay based model which varies by income. The copayment percentage is to be maintained at 30 per cent, but the maximum copayment amounts per prescription also vary by income from $5 to $30. The premium and copayment amounts are outlined in a table that is available online.

“As it stands now, families earning close to $50,000 have to pay premiums in the range of $1,400 per year, per adult,” Boudreau added. “If you are perfectly healthy and you are working to make ends meet, this would have a pretty significant impact. We felt we could not make those kinds of costs mandatory, and the amendment I am introducing today removes that potential.”

The Department of Health will undertake a renewed stakeholder engagement process in 2015 to solicit input on potential options for a government-sponsored drug plan as well as to explore potential collaboration with other Atlantic provinces on a regional drug plan.