We need Universal Prescription Drug Coverage

The NDP and the Green party have both announced some form of prescription drug coverage.

Canada is the only industrialized country that has medical coverage without prescription coverage. Now obviously it doesn’t need to be 100% covered for everyone but we need to at least have a sliding scale where you can actually pay for the medications you are prescribed.

This is a topic I’m really passionate about and I’ll explain why. Over a decade ago I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Looking back I’ve had it since I was very young. I used to vomit and feel physically sick every time I was anxious about something.

Around 2004-2005 I started freelancing as a programmer, I didn’t have consistent clients and it was hard to manage with the depression. My medications cost about $500 a month at the time. I didn’t make enough money to pay my rent and my medications in many of the months of those years. I was in debt and struggling to get by. I was very fortunate that my doctor gave me many free sample packs at the time to make sure I didn’t stop taking my medication cold turkey because of cost. I also had family members who lent me money when I really needed it.

A few years ago, in approximately the same time period I met a man downtown who was homeless, I talked to him and he mentioned that he couldn’t pay for his medication. He mentioned the name of the medication and it was the same on I was on.

After a few years I started feeling better and I had moved over to Quebec for the cheaper rent and to help my uncle with a property so I was covered by the Quebec Drug plan. That made it possible to stay on my medication.

I often think back to that man who I never saw again, and I think of how easily that could of been me. Had I had a few different bounces I could be homeless with no job. I’m very lucky that I have a great job that pays well and has great medical benefits and (and maybe I’m alone on this) I’m proud to pay taxes. And I want my taxes to go to helping others in situations like this. We often talk about homelessness and how it’s terrible and we should do something about it. But we rarely ask how this happened. Up to 74% of people who are homeless have a mental illness.

Even if you don’t agree that we have a duty to pay for people’s prescriptions and health care. Even if you were to be incredibly selfish and only think about yourself, economically it still makes sense. I was lucky to get some lucky bounces and I’m now healthy and a productive members of society, able to pay taxes, able to contribute back. Many other people who weren’t so lucky or privileged would love to be able to have a ‘normal’ life, to contribute to society, they would love the opportunity to be healthy and pay taxes.

Anyway you look at it, we need universal prescription coverage.

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