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Almost 1 Million People in Canada Give Up Food and Heating to Afford Prescriptions

Canada’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world, but Canadians are still struggling to cover prescription costs.

Almost 1 million people disclosed that they spent less on food and heat their home in order to pay for their medical prescriptions in 2016, according to a report published on Tuesday.

The study, which surveyed 28,091 people, revealed that 730,000 people cut down their food costs and 238,000 spent less on heating to pay for prescriptions.

Take Action: It’s Time to Deliver on the Promise of Universal Health Coverage

"We knew lots of Canadians were having trouble paying for medication," said Michael Law, associate professor in the University of British Columbia’s  School of Population and Public Health and lead author on the report told CBC. "Now we know they are trading off other everyday necessities in order to pay for prescription drugs."

Respondents without insurance, those with lower incomes and younger people were more likely to indicate that they struggled to pay for medication.

Indigenous people were almost twice as likely to disclose challenges. Women were also more likely to report trouble compared to men.

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In 2016, more than 1.6 million Canadians did not fill prescriptions or skipped doses. That accounts for 8.2% of people who were prescribed medication that year.

Canada has universal health care but does not have universal drug coverage.

The goal of universal health coverage is to ensure that all people have access to the healthcare they need, without suffering financial hardship when paying for these services.

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Some provinces are implementing programs to help certain people cover costs. In Ontario, prescription drug costs are now covered for anyone under 25 thanks to a new pharmacare program.

British Columbia just announced that prescription-drug deductibles will be reduced or eliminated for those with an income of less than $30,000 a year.

Still, past research has shown that Canada has the second highest drug prices in the world, according to CBC.

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