Thank you for your response concerning my e-mail to Ms Bethune of the Chronicle-Herald.
This is a more complete summary of my concerns about your proposed expansion of Pharmacare and the unfortunate history of financial reporting about this valuable program.
EXPANDING PHARMACARE IN NOVA SCOTIA
It would be difficult to disagree with expanding the Pharmacare Program in Nova Scotia
particularly for those Nova Scotians who do not have any drug benefit coverage. According to the
Business Plan of the Department of Health for 2004/05 21% of Nova Scotians had no coverage for
prescription drugs. In 2004 the population of Nova Scotia was 937,000. This would equate to
approximately 196,000 Nova Scotians. I noticed in the media that your plans include expansion of the
Program to cover 140,000 and your calculations for the extra costs are based on this figure. I am
concerned about the 56,000 Nova Scotians not included in your figures, where do they fit?
I am also concerned about a statement attributed to you relating to the cost increase in the
Seniors' Pharmacare Program in the May 23 edition of the Chronicle-Herald. It stated that this increase
was 300% in the past 15 years. Data I have received from your Department of Health states that
between 1989/90 and 2004/05 the cost of the Seniors' Pharmacare Program to the government of Nova
Scotia increased from $72.4million to $107.64 million, this represents an increase of approximately
50% not 300%. The 300% figure is a gross exaggeration. In terms of total cost of the Program the
increase was from $72.4 million to $146.1 million with $38.46 million coming from seniors in
premiums and co-payments. Using these figures the cost increase is about 100%. Prior to 1989 there
were no premiums and no co-payments, the total cost was paid by government. Since 1999 when your
party became our government Premiums have increased 86% and co-payments 80% except for those
eligible for premium exemption or reduction.
Ever since 1999 representatives of the PC government have been providing inaccurate
information on Pharmacare costs to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia beginning with Finance Minister Neil
LeBlanc. In April 2000 he stated, Mr. Speaker, taxpayers simply cannot continue to absorb the
significant year after year increases in the program costs. In fact in the last three years alone the cost of
the Seniors' Pharmacare Program almost doubled from $42 to $83 million. Actually the cost of the
program increased from $64.567 million to $78.063 million or 21% not 100%. Using Total cost figures
the cost increase was from $88.903 million to $100.863 million or 12%. Mr. LeBlanc had to issue a
mea culpa in the media.
In May 2000 Health Minister Jamie Muir stated that the cost of the program would increase
from $100.863 million to $116 million in 2000/01. Actually the cost of the program to government in
1999/2000 was $78.603 million and it decreased to $75.270 for 2000/01. The Total cost of the Program
increased from $100.863 million to $104.160 million. Mr. Muir used total cost figures including the
portion paid by seniors participating in the program. The practice of making comparisons based on
Total costs caused much confusion and does not reflect costs to government. Mr. Muir did not accept
responsibility for his error.
On May 27th, 2003 a media release by Health Minister Jane Purves stated that since 1999 the
government increased its contribution to Pharmacare by $34 million to keep drugs affordable for
seniors. The actual contribution by your government was $21.4 million with the remaining $12.6
coming from seniors. This error was acknowledged by the new Minister Angus MacIsaac in December
It is very difficult to have confidence in data provided by members of your government when it
comes to the provision of financial data related to the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. It is particularly
disappointing to see that you are continuing the pattern of providing inaccurate data concerning this
My final concern is about the disposition of the Nova Scotia Auditor-General's Report of
December 2004 regarding Pharmacare and other Drug Benefit Programs. It is now one and one-half
years since this Report was presented and it seems few of its Recommendations have been
implemented. Also I see nothing about a Catastrophic Drug Program which is a very urgent need. It is
hoped that when the details of your plans for Pharmacare expansion are released that there will be an
opportunity for consultation and that all the studies related to Pharmacare over the past number of years
will be considered.
May 31, 2006
John J. Ryan, PhC, L.L.D. (Hon)