PANL Seeks More Information on 2016 Budget Cuts
Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program Cut by $12 Million, Full Patient Impacts Unknown
April 15, 2016 (St. John’s) The Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL) expressed concern today with Budget 2016 measures that will see $12 million cut from the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program (NLPDP), along with other cuts in health care.
“PANL certainly expected austerity measures in this budget and we acknowledge the monumental task that faced the Premier and his Cabinet as they developed a fiscal plan for the province,” said Stephen Green, PANL. “We are surprised, though, with the amount cut from the NLPDP, and need more information from government to assess the full impacts of this budget decision.”
The NLPDP provides assistance in the purchase of prescription drugs, and some related medical supplies, to residents who quality for coverage. Beneficiaries include those with low incomes and those with high drug costs in relation to their income. The primary principle of the program is that residents of the province should not be denied access to health care because of financial need.
Budget 2016 documents show that the 2015-16 budget allocation for the NLPDP was $149,322,400. The allocation for 2016-17 it is $137,185,200 – a decrease of over $12 million. The removal of over the counter products from the program and limits on numbers of diabetic test strips account for $5.5 million. It is unknown where the other $6.5 million cut will be targeted.
“We have requested further information from the Health Minister’s officials within the Department of Health and Community Services,” said Glenda Power, Executive Director of PANL. “We are very concerned with impacts on patients and the impacts on the ability of pharmacists to meet their needs. The patients the NLPDP serves are vulnerable and have very limited means to pay out of pocket for drugs – this will be compounded by budget measures that will see increased taxes and fees for all residents.”
In advance of the Provincial Government’s Budget, PANL provided a package of evidence to Premier Ball, Finance Minister Cathy Bennett and Health Minister John Haggie, to support in Budget 2016 a change in the funding framework for flu immunization so that residents can get their flu shot for free regardless of where they receive it – in a physician office, health authority clinic or pharmacy. This change would increase immunization rates, improve population health and decrease health care costs. Minister Haggie has indicated his government is considering PANL’s recommendation for the 2016-17 flu vaccine program.
“Premier Ball has said that his government supports evidence-based decision making,” said Mr. Green. “I urge the government to act on the compelling body of evidence provided by PANL to ensure the benefits of a truly universal flu immunization program.”
PANL is the voice of pharmacists, with membership including 740 pharmacists, over 160 pharmacy students and 150 pharmacies. PANL advocates for pharmacists as health care team members integral to the effective and efficient delivery of health services in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador