The Alward government has unveiled a major new social program, a prescription drug coverage plan, which it calls the most important piece of health legislation since the introduction of medicare.

The plan is designed to cover drugs for people who don’t have insurance through their employers. After the first year of the program, it will also force employers to raise their coverage standards to match the government’s plan.

The plan will cover any prescription drugs that are on the provincial formulary, a list of covered drugs. That list includes some so-called catastrophic drugs like Remicade, but does not include others.

Health Minister Ted Flemming says despite the expense, the program is the right thing to do, and will also save money in the health care system.

“When people have access to the prescription drugs they need to manage disease or prevent or treat illness, they're healthier,” Flemming said.

“They take less time off work. They visit emergency rooms less. They're less likely to be hospitalized. We need to make sure a patient is in a financial position to follow his doctor's orders.”

The province estimates 70,000 families have no drug coverage and are not eligible for existing provincial coverage for people on social assistance.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy is applauding the plan as "groundbreaking."

“This is a shining example of government doing what it should be doing for the people — focusing on core services like health, transportation and education," he said in a statement.

The New Brunswick Medical Society, which has had its share of differences with Flemming over doctor billings and medicare cuts, also supports the new plan.

"It's a very positive development," said president Dr. Lynn Hansen. "It's a good day for the province of New Brunswick."

The CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society in New Brunswick agrees.


Drug plan for uninsured New Brunswickers unveiled - New Brunswick - CBC News