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Chrystia Freeland stops by Toronto pharmacy to highlight drug coverage for diabetes and contraceptives in upcoming budget

Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Saturday that a federal plan that will cover most prescription contraceptives and diabetes medicine in Canada will be rolled out soon.

The Pharmacare Act was tabled last month. The first phase of its rollout will be included in the upcoming 2024 budget, Freeland said Saturday in an appearance at a Toronto pharmacy to highlight the plan.

When the first phase is implemented, prescription contraceptives like the birth control pill, hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), contraceptive injections and implants will be covered by the federal government.

These prescriptions currently cost between $150 – $300 per-year in Canada, or around $30 – $500 per unit.  More than 9 million Canadians are currently in their reproductive years, which is when contraceptives are most commonly used.

According to a news release issued by the Department of Finance, existing healthcare spending will be enhanced in provinces and territories to cover the full costs.

“Women should have the autonomy to make their own choices about their health and their bodies,” Freeland, said at a pharmacy in her University-Rosedale riding. “Our plan is to make common contraceptives free – like birth control pills and IUDs, and even emergency contraception – will mean that, for nine million Canadian women, freedom of choice will be truly ‘free.’ And it means that more Canadian women will have freedom of choice over their bodies and their lives.”

Additionally, universal health coverage will extend to include diabetes medicine and over-the-counter emergency contraceptives.

Diabetic medications that will be covered include insulin, metformin, Sulfonylureas and SGLT-2 inhibitors, which can cost up to $1,700 per-year. Medical equipment used by diabetics will not be included in the coverage.

Freeland did not provide a date when asked when healthcare coverage for these medications will begin, but said she’s hopeful that the federal government will be able to work with the provinces to make it happen.

“So we’re committed to getting it done. We’re going to have to work with our partners, but we believe that this is something Canadians want and need,” Freeland told reporters. “And so our hope and our belief is partners are going to come to the table.”

When pressed on how the federal government will be able to get all the provinces and territories – which are responsible for health care – on board with the plan, Freeland pointed out there were also similar concerns with the federal government’s child care program and said she’s confident all governments will want the same thing.

“We want Canadians to have a good life, to be able to afford the good life. We want Canadians to have and enjoy their full human rights and for women, these contraceptives are about making life more affordable. They’re about putting women in charge of their bodies and their lives,” Freeland said.

“That’s really basic. It’s really simple. And I am confident that building on that basic truth, we will be able to find a path to work together with provinces and territories.”

Freeland did not provide an estimate when asked what the program might cost. She said more details will be revealed as the plan is rolled out.

–          With files from Joshua Freeman

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