N.S. says it cant afford to return Pharmacare program overpayment to seniors

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HALIFAX Seniors who make Pharmacare overpayments in the next fiscal year won't get their money back because of Nova Scotia's bleak financial situation, Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said Thursday.
The province and seniors split the program's cost 75/25, give or take a percentage point either way.
MacDonald said it turns out seniors are paying roughly 26.5 per cent of costs this year. That overpayment would normally be returned to seniors next year in the form of a lower premium or co-payment amount, but that won't happen, she added.
"There's no intention to alter the premiums or the co-pay in this fiscal year," the minister said after Thursday's cabinet meeting.
She said seniors paid several million more than required in the current fiscal year. She said she didn't know how much an individual could have saved in the coming year if the government wasn't making the regulatory change.
The cost of Pharmacare is climbing. It's projected to grow to $195 million in 2010-11 from $186 million this year, said department spokeswoman Nicole Watkins-Campbell.
She said seniors are getting a break from the frozen premium and co-payment amounts.
"The benefit to seniors, I think, is that in a year when we're expecting costs to increase almost five per cent, we're able to hold the line for them," she said.
The maximum annual premium will remain at $424, and the maximum annual co-payment will be $382. Seniors pay 30 per cent of prescription costs to that $382 maximum.
There are 101,078 seniors in the Pharmacare program, and the Health Department projects that number to grow to 104,000 in the next fiscal year.
This year, 47 per cent of seniors don't pay a premium because of their low incomes, 51 per cent pay the full premium, and the rest pay a reduced premium based on income.
MacDonald said the seniors' extra share this year resulted from a higher proportion of those joining the program paying the full premium.
The province projects a $525-million deficit this year.
Opposition health critics said the New Democrats are picking on vulnerable people.
"I think it really is very telling that they are turning their backs on the people who need their help the most," said Liberal Diana Whalen. The NDP are just showing us once more that the promises that they've made, not just in the election, but for years before, are not worth anything."
Tory health critic Chris d'Entremont said even a reduction of a few dollars can help seniors on fixed incomes.

Organizations: Pharmacare, Health Department, NDP

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Ex-Pat
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    Charming... Stealing from old people on fixed incomes. What next? Candy from babies? SHAME!!!!

    Why don't our MLAs give up some *more* perks or reduce THEIR obscene pension entitlement? Yeah... I'm not holding my breath either....