A cautious welcome to the new NB Drug Program.
I say cautious because it's not really been made certain how it will work - guaranteed - from 2015.
Currently, if you don't have a plan through employment or privately you are stuck with paying through the nose for the cost of the prescriptions and supplies.
The exception being those on social assistance or those whose income is insufficient to meet needs plus the medical/prescription costs. The latter people have to jump through hoops every year and a real strict assessment is made - even considering income from GST refunds and the income of others in the house. If eligible, those pay $4 per prescription. Even that can mount up.
The new system will be voluntary from next year with a monthly premium and then 30% of each prescription - subject to a max of $30 each one. The premium is decided by income levels.
For a few it won't make much difference. It will cut the monthly cost for drugs but the monthly premium may swallow up savings.
But it looks to be a big advantage for those with many prescriptions or an income not currently considered low enough.
One assumes the current program will remain in place.
From 2015 the system will be mandatory and will replace the existing program - with talk of penalties for those not paying premiums.
It is envisaged that with so many people enrolling - what with it being mandatory - the premiums will come down so that those currently qualifying for the $4 a time program will not have to pay a monthly contribution and will pay $5 each time.
On the face of it that's not bad, providing the premium does come down. I haven't seen anything about a maximum cost to the patient yet. Right now, there's a maximum of something like $400 a year and that's important for those needing more than 8 prescriptions.
For example, 10 prescriptions @ $4 comes to $40 a month and $480 a year and you don't pay all of it. The new system would mean 10 @ $5 = $50 and $600 a year.
Hopefully they've put a maximum in somewhere.
Perhaps the biggest change will be that all those hoops will be removed, with a simple declaration of income, checked through Revenue Canada, as with other programs.
No more to-ing and fro-ing all over town anymore.
Unless, of course, next year the gov has a change of heart.