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Rae unveils Health-care Strategy

According to the federal Liberal leadership hopeful Bob Rae, Canada needed a national catastrophic drug program, which would prevent patients from having to choose between// their health and their bank balances.

As part of his effort to succeed Paul Martin as leader of the federal Liberal party, Rae unveiled a six-point health-care campaign platform, the center-piece of which makes the so-called Maple Leaf Drug Plan.

"No one in Canada should ever have to choose between their health and financial catastrophe, and for too many Canadians this is the case today," said Rae, according to him the platform was a "very realistic, practical strategy."

Leadership rival Michael Ignatieff unveiled his own campaign platform at a showy rally in Toronto a day before Rae’s own news conference came.

Rae had served as premier of Ontario for the period; 1990-94. He mentioned his own experience at designing drug plans. He also criticized the federal Conservative government for not doing anything about its promise to reduce wait times.

"I know what it takes to launch an effort like this," Rae said, pointing to the Trillium prescription drug plan Ontario established in the early 1990s.

A plan for promotion of healthy living among Canadians, a strategy to more promptly recognize the credentials of foreign-trained professionals and a proposal to cut wait times comprise Rae’s platform.

Rae was not able to give the exact cost of the drug plan, however, he said that Ottawa would be responsible for footing the bill. He said, “I have a pretty clear idea of the costs faced in Ontario and other provinces.”

“A first stage to the plan would be to focus on the Atlantic Provinces, where many people do not have private insurance and are not covered under a public drug plan,” Rae said.

He said, “The plan will build on existing provincial plans and will cover Canadians who face catastrophic drug expenses not c overed by the plan in their province.” “If a province prefers to keep its own plan, I will be open to discussion on that front, but a national program would be more efficient and cost-effective.”

“There are real advantages to creating a national plan,” Rae said. “There are significant savings in terms of how you manage the formulary, how you calculate the deductibles and linking the work that goes on across the country into one plan.”

Establishment of transparency and accountability for the Canada Health Act, promotion of healthy living and preventing childhood obesity are some of the other measures in Rae’s plan.

He said, “I want to bring back ParticipACTION, the non-profit organization promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, whose commercials promoting the benefits of nutrition and exercise were broadcast to Canadians over several decades.”

Rae promised to come up with new and inventive plans to cut hospital wait times. “We have to find innovation in the public system," he said. "We have to find more cost-effective ways of delivering service and we have to be more innovative in how we do it.”

“Those savings have yet to materialize because of people within both government and the health-care profession who are resistant to change”, he added. He also said, “I will work with the provinces to alleviate a growing shortage of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other health professionals.”

Rae plans to announce in Montreal his methodology to Quebec and federalism.

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