By David Ljunggren and Anna Mehler Paperny
OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s Liberal government will propose a limited expansion to the country’s universal healthcare system in the spring budget, to cover part of the cost of prescription drugs, sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The modest broadening of the healthcare programme is set to become one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s key campaign promises ahead of the October election, which is shaping up to be a close fight.
The government would not commit to meeting 100 percent of the cost of prescription drugs for those who have no insurance through their workplace, the sources said. That suggests the government is leaning towards a narrower, more insurance industry-friendly model of pharmacare, as it is called, than that recommended by a government health committee last year.
A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau declined to comment.
Officials have yet to decide how much detail to provide about the pharmacare system in the budget, which is expected in the week of March 18, the sources said. They may release a general commitment to boost coverage and leave the specifics for the campaign, they added.
But new information on pharmacare’s inclusion in the spring budget and its limited scope gives a first glimpse of the government’s blueprint for what has been called the “unfinished business” of Canada’s publicly funded healthcare system.
The sources, who spoke in recent days, requested anonymity because they were not authoriSed to speak to the media.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Matthew Lewis)