Nova Scotia shelves plan to increase pharmacare premiums – CP

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Nova Scotia shelves plan to increase pharmacare premiums – CP

by ahnationtalk on February 18, 2016373 Views

Source: The Canadian Press
Feb 18, 2016

By Michael MacDonald


HALIFAX _ The Nova Scotia government abruptly shelved plans to increase drug plan premiums for seniors Thursday, bowing to intense pressure from advocacy groups and admitting to a string of communication snafus.

Premier Stephen McNeil said the changes came too quickly for seniors and were poorly communicated.

“Seniors told us these changes were too much, too soon _ our actions had unintended consequences,” he said in a statement. “We will consult with seniors from one end of the province to the other to ensure their thoughts are heard before we make changes.”

The changes to seniors pharmacare were introduced last month, but the government statement that announced the new measures failed to clearly spell out the impact on premiums.

The statement focused on the fact that 12,000 low-income seniors who were paying premiums would become exempt under the new system. As well, a letter sent to seniors outlining the changes didn’t explain them accurately.

The Nova Scotia Health Coalition later complained to the province’s Ombudsman’s office over the Health Department’s poor communication, saying the department’s messages were incoherent.

As well, seniors groups complained that couples and individual seniors were being treated differently, and there was outrage over the government’s plan to raise the maximum premium from $424 to $1,200.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the “dishonest and unfair changes” were the result of a lack of accountability and he called for the resignation of Health Minister Leo Glavine.

“Seniors stood their ground and said, ‘We will not stand to be treated this way by the Liberal government,”’ Baillie said in a statement. “Today, that resilience and perseverance paid off.”

NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald said McNeil is paying the price for introducing premium increases without warning and without consultation.

“To make matters worse, (the) Liberal government withheld crucial information, which prevented the public from knowing the full truth,” she said in a statement. “I’m pleased the premier has accepted his mistake and has done the right thing by reversing course.”

Bill Berryman, chairman of the Seniors’ Advisory Council, said the government listened to the group’s concerns and responded quickly.

“We look forward to continuing our dialogue during the upcoming consultation process and anticipate changes which will be agreeable to seniors in Nova Scotia,” he said in the statement.

The premier confirmed Thursday premiums will be frozen and the maximum payment will remain at $424 a year per person. That means every Nova Scotian who belongs to the program will pay the same premium or less.

Seniors on a guaranteed income supplement will continue to be exempt from paying premiums and the co-payment will remain at 30 per cent per prescription to a maximum of $382 per year.

As well, McNeil said the province would move ahead with its plan to eliminate premiums for about 12,000 low-income seniors while reducing premiums for some others, measures that will cost the province about $3 million annually.



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