Elections represent key moments when individuals and groups have the opportunity to have their decision-makers, and the parties they represent, make commitments. In anticipation of the 2015 federal election, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights has produced a series of thematic briefs outlining what actions we think the Government of Canada should take on a range of sexual and reproductive rights issues in the coming years.
This week, the Canadian Health Coalition, as part of the Health Care for All campaign, brings light to the need for a national drug plan in our country. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights supports this initiative as a national drug plan that guarantees access to a comprehensive range of medication, devices and appropriate supports would make an important contribution to the full realization of people’s sexual and reproductive rights.
International law guarantees all people the right to life and the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, which includes sexual and reproductive health. The Canadian Health Coalition reports that Canada is the only country with public health care and no national drug plan. While most health services are covered through provincial health insurance plans, prescribed medication is not covered through provincial public insurance plans. According to drugcoverage.ca approximately 60% of the population has access to private health insurance which provides reimbursements for prescribed medication, devices and other specialized services. According to a survey by Statistics Canada, 24% of the Canadian population report that they have no drug coverage and so are forced to pay out of pocket for pharmaceutical products, including contraceptive drugs and devices. Those most likely to fall through the gaps are people who are working but who have low earnings as they may not be eligible for public benefits and are less likely to have employer-provided benefits. The remainder of the population is subject to the variable provincial regimes that provide coverage to certain members of their population including recipients of social assistance, seniors and other specific groups through provincial drug formularies that may or may not include certain products depending on the province of residence. This results in differential access to essential health commodities across provinces and territories and in barriers and inequalities in accessing them within each province and territory, particularly for those with limited access to resources.
The ability to manage one’s fertility, have healthy pregnancies, and prevent, treat or manage sexually transmitted infections should not be dependent on income, place of residence or immigration status. People in Canada who require vaccines, medication or birth control devices should not need to rely on insurance or personal savings to afford the resources needed to maintain or realize the best possible sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Yet, at present, medicines, devices and supports to improve sexual and reproductive health are not covered universally.