Chrystia Freeland stops by a Toronto pharmacy to highlight diabetes and contraceptive drug coverage in the upcoming budget

Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Saturday that a federal plan will soon be implemented that will cover most prescription contraceptives and diabetes medications in Canada.

The Pharmacare Law was introduced last month. The first phase of its implementation will be included in the upcoming 2024 budget, Freeland said Saturday in an appearance at a Toronto pharmacy to highlight the plan.

When the first phase is implemented, prescription contraceptives such as the birth control pill, hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), birth control injections, and implants will be covered by the federal government.

These prescriptions currently cost between $150 – $300 per year in Canada, or about $30 – $500 per unit. More than 9 million Canadians are currently of reproductive age, which is when contraceptives are most commonly used.

According to a press release issued by the Department of Finance, existing health spending will be increased in provinces and territories to cover full costs.

“Women should have the autonomy to make their own decisions about their health and their bodies,” said Freeland, at a pharmacy in her hometown of University-Rosedale. “Our plan is to make common contraceptives free – like birth control pills and IUDs, and even emergency contraception – which will mean that, for nine million Canadian women, freedom of choice will be truly ‘free.’ And it means more Canadian women will have freedom of choice over their bodies and their lives.”

Additionally, universal health coverage will be expanded to include over-the-counter diabetes medications and emergency contraceptives.

Diabetes medications that will be covered include insulin, metformin, sulfonylureas, and SGLT-2 inhibitors, which can cost up to $1,700 per year. Medical equipment used by diabetics will not be included in the coverage.

Freeland did not provide a date when asked when health care coverage for these drugs will begin, but said she is hopeful the federal government can work with the provinces to make this happen.

“So we’re committed to getting it done. We’ll have to work with our partners, but we think this is something Canadians want and need,” Freeland told reporters. “And so our hope and our belief is that partners will come to the table.”

When asked how the federal government will be able to get all provinces and territories (which are responsible for health care) on board, Freeland noted there were also similar concerns with the federal government’s child care program and said she has trust. All governments will want the same thing.

“We want Canadians to have a good life, to be able to afford a good life. We want Canadians to have and enjoy their full human rights, and for women, these contraceptives serve to make life more affordable. It’s about putting women to take charge of their bodies and their lives,” Freeland said.

“That’s really basic. It’s really simple. And I’m confident that based on that basic truth, we can find a way to work together with the provinces and territories.”

Freeland did not provide an estimate when asked how much the program might cost. He said more details will be revealed as the plan is implemented.

With files from Joshua Freeman

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