Candidates lack ‘political will’ to expand Canada Health Act: Public Interest Alberta

Public Interest Alberta is waiting for federal election candidates to talk about the need to expand the Canada Health Act to cover seniors care and prescription drugs.

Public Interest Alberta is waiting for federal election candidates to talk about the need to expand the Canada Health Act to cover seniors care and prescription drugs.

Noel Somerville, chairperson of Public Interest Alberta’s Seniors Task Force, said that right now nobody seems to have the “political will” to tackle the out-of-date federal legislation.

The act, passed in 1984, puts conditions in place that provinces and territories must meet in order to get federal funding for health care.

“I think the Canada Health Act should be extended. Right now, it covers doctors and services rendered in hospitals. It does not cover services rendered in seniors care facilities. I think it should be extended to do that.

“It does not cover prescription drugs. I think it should be extended to do that,” said Somerville, who spoke at a Central Alberta Council on Aging meeting on Tuesday morning at Golden Circle.

He said if a senior has a chronic disability, cognitive disability or becomes too frail to look after themselves, those are health conditions that should be covered by the act.

As a representative of the non-partisan organization focused on advocacy of public services, spaces and institutions, Somerville said he has introduced resolutions at a variety of NDP and Liberal meetings to amend the act.

“They really get twitchy as soon as you say that. I think they are afraid if they ever open it up, the Conservatives will use it to dismantle the Canada Health Act as it exists. I don’t think anybody has the political clout to do that any more. I think they need to get in there and make significant improvements.”

He said the free-trade agreement the federal Conservative government wants to ratify with the European Union poses another hurdle to lowering prescription drug costs for Canadians.

“In Canada, we pay way above the average price for prescription drugs. They say Canada is a relatively small country compared to the others. New Zealand is way smaller than Canada and New Zealand does not pay a fraction of what we pay for prescription drugs because New Zealand negotiates with individual companies for bulk purchasing of prescription drugs. That can really bring the price down.”

Somerville said discussion by federal parties has lacked substance so far this election campaign and the public has to start asking more of candidates.

Central Alberta Council on Aging and Golden Circle are co-hosting a federal election candidate forum on Oct. 6. at Golden Circle.

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