End of exemption from paying deductible for medication a bitter pill for some Manitobans – Manitoba

Manitobans who were previously exempt from paying deductibles under the provincial drug program have been notified that exemption will come to an end on April 1.

Doug Hillier, who lives with cystic fibrosis and diabetes, got a letter on Friday notifying him of the changes. He says the deductible he’ll now have to pay is money he just doesn’t have.

“My monthly expenses come in and they go out, and there’s nothing at the end of the month,” said Hillier.

Doug Hillier takes 19 different medications costing about $4,000 per month, which were covered entirely by the Special Drug Program. Starting in April, he will have to pay an $1,800-per-year deductible. (Submitted by Laura Hillier)

“I don’t know what I would have to do [to find] this deductible. I have no clue.”

Hillier is one of about 1,100 Manitobans enrolled in the Special Drug Program, or SDP, formerly called the Life-Saving Drug Program.

The program began in 1968 to help those with medical conditions associated with high drug costs, and who had their prescriptions paid for entirely by the province.

When the province’s current drug program, Pharmacare, was introduced in 1996, those people were “grandfathered in” and continued to benefit from the exemption, while other Manitobans began paying a deductible based on their household income.

“Essentially the time has come where we really need to ensure that there is one single program in place where there is equity,” said Patricia Caetano, executive director of Manitoba Health’s provincial drug program.

Caetano said the changes will impact about 800 families, whose deductibles will be determined based on household income.

She says it isn’t known yet how much money will be saved by the change, because that will depend on the deductibles, but the move was more about making the system fair as opposed to saving money.

“I think it’s increasingly difficult in this day and age to try to explain to one client why they have to…

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