A new study finds a number of similarities between Canadian drug coverage and that of the United States, despite their publicized differences. Looking at Quebec’s Prescription Drug Insurance Program and the United States’ Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA), the study suggests that the older Canadian plan may provide valuable insights for American decision-makers.
The study examines the factors that led to the adoption of Quebec’s drug policy in 1997 and of the MMA in 2003, finding that both programs were developed in response to popular discontent, pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, and the determination of the government of the day to leave its mark on history. Canadian and American policy-makers shared a goal of expanding prescription drug benefits to a greater part of the population while also controlling costs.
Led by Marie-Pascale Pomey of the University of Montreal, the study looks at some of the challenges that have faced the Quebec plan since its inception ten years ago, including the complexity of the regime, the heavy burden of users’ contributions, and the lack of a comprehensive pharmaceutical policy. Some of these problems have already been experienced by the MMA, and others are predicted in its future.
Canadian efforts to resolve these challenges, such as streamlining the various sources of financing of the program, adjusting terms of coverage to remove access barriers to the poor and developing innovative policies to regulate drug prices, may provide guidance to American policy-makers.
“With so much already achieved, cross-national policy learning may be one of the tools that will allow both programs to progress even further, so that Quebecers and Americans alike can enjoy the positive health benefits of prescription drug programs that balance the goals of equitable access, a healthy and innovative pharmaceutical industry, and cost containment,” says Pomey.
This study is published in the September issue of The Milbank Quarterly.
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