The Canadian Medical Association's call this week for better drug coverage for low-income households is one Canada should consider seriously, as much for economic reasons as for humanitarian ones.
The CMA called for the change in the wake of a poll that suggests one in four Canadians earning less than $30,000 annually has stopped or put off taking prescription drugs because of the expense.
While few observers would pretend this is an acceptable situation, many would argue - not unreasonably - that taxpayers can't be the ones to remedy it; much as we might wish otherwise, there are only so many new burdens an already-strained health-care system can support.
But to dismiss the idea out of hand as unaffordable is shortsighted.
In many cases, the medications in question help manage conditions that would otherwise worsen and become more complex - and as such they can be a good investment. Patients who can avoid publicly funded surgery by staying on heart medication will not only save themselves grief, but also the system money - a lot of it. Add to that their continued ability to work, and a subsidy of some kind starts to make economic sense.
Rather than shrugging off the CMA's suggestion, our provincial and federal governments should give it some careful analysis. It's possible that by paying more of the cost of certain medications for the most marginalized Canadians, we can lighten the burden for them and for taxpayers alike.
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