The UCP government kicked 40,126 Albertans off their provincial medical plans for drug coverage, according to a new report.
The NDP said the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan Statistical Supplement shows exactly how many Albertans lost prescription drug coverage when the province changed the Alberta Seniors Drug Benefit in 2019 to remove dependents, mostly impacting women and dependent grandchildren.
Previously, the program covered both seniors and their dependents.
During Question Period in Legislature on Tuesday, Health Minister Jason Copping said the change ensured that seniors would continue to have coverage.
“The reason for the change was not only so we could manage costs, but re-invest into our drug care plan. We are spending more on our drug care plan than ever, over $2 billion this year, more than last year, and more than the previous government as well,” Copping said.
He said the change also brought Alberta into alignment with other provinces, and dependents of seniors can still sign up for coverage through the government-sponsored Blue Cross plan.
Brad LaFortune, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, said it’s callous for the health minister to say people can still pay for coverage because not everyone can afford it, especially as inflation skyrockets. The UCP has the power to reverse its decision.
LaFortune was happy the federal government was finally taking steps to develop a national pharmacare system, but he said it will take years.
“For the time being, we need to bridge that gap by reversing the decision to cut dependents off the senior’s drug plan here in Alberta,” LaFortune said.
NDP seniors critic Lori Sigurdson said the UCP changed access to the plan without warning.
“Overnight, family members had their benefits eliminated and were forced to scramble to ensure that they could afford the prescriptions they rely on,” said Sigurdson in a statement.
“The UCP signed off on tens of millions of dollars for the war room and for the Allan inquiry, and then agreed to kick 40,126 Albertans off their drug coverage plan,” added Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley.
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