McNeil government reverses increase to Nova Scotia seniors' pharmacare

Colin Chisholm
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HALIFAX  - Premier Stephen McNeil announced Feb. 18 the government is backing up on a plan to increase fees for the provincial seniors’ drug plan.

Premier Stephen McNeil. FIle

McNeil said the province will halt the increases to the Seniors' Pharmacare program and is planning a full round of consultation with seniors across the province.

"Seniors told us these changes were too much, too soon - our actions had unintended consequences," McNeil said in a media release. "We have listened.

"We will consult with seniors from one end of the province to the other to ensure their thoughts are heard before we make changes in the future."

McNeil said premiums would not go up from last year. The maximum premium payment will remain at $424 a year per person.

However, one of the proposed changes will go ahead. McNeil said more low-income seniors will have their premiums reduced or eliminated in the interim.

A media release from the province says 12,000 people who paid a Pharmacare premium in 2015 would not pay one in 2016. The statement continues, saying every Nova Scotian who belongs to the program will pay the same premium or less.

Seniors on a guaranteed income supplement will continue to be exempt from paying premiums and the co-payment will remain at 30 per cent per prescription to a maximum of $382 per year.

The changes are expected to cost government about an additional $3 million a year.

"The government listened to our concerns at the February third meeting and we thank them for responding within a short time frame," said Bill Berryman, chairman of the Seniors' Advisory Council in the media release. "We look forward to continuing our dialogue during the upcoming consultation process and anticipate changes which will be agreeable to seniors in Nova Scotia."

"We had put forward changes that were intended to bring more fairness and equity to the program," said McNeil. "It is clear that Nova Scotians want more consultation before significant changes are introduced to this program. We will deliver.”

Opposition party members have come out in force since the changes were initially announced, the PC Party and NDP released a joint press release earlier this month condemning the premium increases.

Stephen McNeil is attending a meet and greet with seniors this evening at MacLeod House in Windsor from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with newly-minted Liberal MLA Chuck Porter.

Organizations: Advisory Council, PC Party, NDP MacLeod House

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Windsor

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