To bolster health, would basic income — not pharmacare — make more sense?

Andre Picard - Globe and Mail

“Millions of Canadians have to choose between paying for groceries or their prescription medications,” Hassan Yussuf, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, wrote in a recent commentary.

That is one of the most frequently cited reasons for national pharmacare by proponents of a sweeping domestic plan.

First of all, that claim is questionable. It is based on polling data that show 23 per cent of those surveyed said they had experienced difficulty paying for prescriptions. Another study found that 731,000 Canadians borrowed money to pay for their prescription drugs, and some were cutting back on necessities as a result.

To say that millions are going hungry to pay for drugs is quite a leap.

Regardless, shouldn’t the priority of policy-makers be to ensure that all Canadians can afford necessities such as food and housing, not just prescription drugs?

If you’re going to make a massive investment of public funds, doesn’t it make more sense to embrace a basic income rather than “free” drugs for all?

Of course, ensuring that people have affordable access to essential prescription drugs is important, just as important as affordable access to physician and hospital care.

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