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Feds want pharmacare deal by end of year but Ontario health minister has ‘a lot more’ questions

Ontario’s health minister says she still has “a lot more questions” about the Trudeau government’s plan for universal pharmacare as her federal counterpart says he hopes to see people using the plan before the end of the year.

The federal government introduced its legislation for a national single-payer program at the end of February, with the plan also set to include coverage for contraception and diabetes.

Alberta has said it won’t take part in the program and will instead ask to be given the money it would have been granted through the plan. Quebec has also said it will not take part because it has its own coverage.

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Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones has said since the plan was confirmed that she can’t commit to taking part until she understands more.

“I need a lot more details: which programs would be impacted, whether in some cases Ontario has already more than what the pharmacare proposal is,” Jones said Monday.

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To put the plan into action, the federal government will need to negotiate and sign agreements with the country’s provinces and territories.

Jones said she has had just one conversation with her federal counterpart, Mark Holland.

She said she still has more questions about what “it actually looks like.”

The key sticking point, according to Ontario, would be avoiding duplication with — or replacement of — a program called OHIP+, a provincial plan that provides items including medication, inhalers and insulin to people 24 and under without other coverage.

Holland said all of his conversations with provinces and territories had been “very positive” and he was hopeful he would soon be signing deals across the country. The federal minister is planning meetings with health leaders over the next two weeks, he said.

Holland said he wants to “try to negotiate these agreements even as we’re working through it in Parliament.”

He said he hoped a deal with Ontario could be reached in “short order.”

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