Posted on Dec 10, 2019

Seniors, family members struggle as UCP kicks tens of thousands off prescription drug program

Albertans are demanding the UCP Government reverse their cruel decision to kick tens of thousands of people off the Seniors Drug Benefit Program in order to pay for a $4.7-billion corporate giveaway.

The cruel Jason Kenney budget passed through the Legislature this fall will cause 46,000 Albertans to lose their drug coverage - Alberta Health officials confirmed this during estimates debate a few weeks ago. 

Retiree Heather Waldie, 63, who is undergoing cancer treatment said losing her prescription drug coverage through her husband’s plan is a financial and emotional hit on her family.

“Through my first cancer treatment five years ago it would have cost us around $3,000 monthly,” Waldie said. “We were responsible for the co-payment costs up to a maximum of $25 per prescription.

“If we had been responsible for the full cost it would have placed an incredible strain on us. We planned our future with the existing drug coverage in place. This turns things upside down for us. Jason Kenney did not campaign on this.”

Seniors are also expressing their frustration with how little the government has communicated about the changes and where information can be found. There have also been warnings the benefits program will soon be income tested, but no further details have been provided.

“I am currently in the process of determining our future health-care coverage needs and this uncertainty is putting my future health and financial decisions into limbo,” said 60-year-old Ronda Morgan, who has an auto-immune condition, which costs approximately $27,000 per year to manage. “This Government of Alberta decision does not appear to be well thought out and yet another way that they can nickel and dime vulnerable citizens.”

Lori Sigurdson, Seniors Critic for Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition, said seniors built Alberta and should not be forced to sacrifice their prescription coverage to pay for Jason Kenney’s failed experiment.

“The UCP is throwing seniors off their drug plan to pay for their $4.7-billion no-jobs corporate handout,” Sigurdson said. “These Albertans often live on fixed incomes and will now be forced to pay out of pocket for the medications they need to manage chronic conditions and serious disease.”

In September, Alberta’s NDP Caucus joined seniors and advocates to call on the UCP Government to stand by its promise to maintain or increase support for seniors and ensure they are respected and able to live in dignity, however, the UCP dismissed those concerns as “fear and smear.” 

Children being raised by their grandparents, who would have been covered under the program, will also be kicked off the drug plan.

“It’s shameful that the Premier and his Health Minister are downloading healthcare costs to seniors and their families,” said David Shepherd, NDP Opposition Health Critic. “This government has, yet again, broken its promise to provide support for not only the seniors who built our province, but also and their dependents just to curry favour with their wealthy friends and insiders.”