by Kristen McEwen
Within the 2013–14 Saskatchewan provincial budget, an approximate $10 million cut is in store for the Saskatchewan Prescription Drug Plan - but it's not all bad news, according to government sources.
Health Minister Dustin Duncan said that amount of money is a result of drug patents ending and more generic drugs coming available on the market.
The reduction in funds is also a result of a generic drug initiative the Saskatchewan government has partnered with other provinces across the country. The goal of the initiative is to price six generic drugs at approximately 18 per cent of brand drugs.
“What’s happening is not a lessening of utilization but we’re getting a better price for drugs that are on the drug plan,” Duncan said.
According to the budget summary, the government would be saving a total of $20 million in initiatives to lower prices on generic drugs.
The $10 million in cuts is included in this figure, Duncan said.
The leftover estimation of $10 million is a result of “increased utilization with the growing population,” he said.
While more inexpensive drugs will be available on the market thanks to the nation-wide generic drug initiative, SEIU-West president Barbara Cape said the partnership between provinces needs to go further to help people who need a larger and more affordable drug coverage.
“We invest in business, we invest in infrastructure, we need to invest in the people of this province,” Cape said. “And the government made a baby step towards there but this government, especially is in a fabulous position to make bigger leaps towards building a better province for the people of the province not just for the businesses we have.”
In Regional Health Services, each health authority across the province received an increase in funding. The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency also received an increase of approximately $11 million, although the agency has been asked to look for cuts in the coming year.
Meanwhile, Regional Targeted Programs and Services will receive a $40 million cut. The Regional Targeted Programs and Services provide additional funds to health regions for certain programs such as the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative.
Projects like the Surgical Initiative will be receiving less money from Regional Targeted Programs and Services because it requires less money, Duncan said.
Last fiscal year, $27 million was allocated for the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative in the province. This year, the program is receiving $10 million.
The base operating budget for the Regional Health Authorities will increase by $131.8 million, or 4.5 per cent for this year. The base operating budgets of the health regions will now include some program expenses.
“It’s not that there aren’t programs that haven’t been renewed but in some cases those programs were targeted programs that are now part of the base budget for the region,” Duncan said.
The Regional Health Authorities and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency are also required this year to find $53.9 million in savings.
“We see health regions and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency having to make cuts and look for reductions and that’s a concern because that will affect patient care,” NDP leader Cam Broten said.