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Alberta’s health minister says the province won’t sign on to a federal pharmacare plan covering birth control and diabetes medication.

The deal is part of a supply-and-confidence agreement that has seen federal New Democrats support the Liberal minority government in order to get the NDP’s priority policies introduced.

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The full details of the program have yet to be officially released along with legislation expected this week in Ottawa, but Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange told reporters Monday the province wasn’t consulted, and the feds are overstepping their jurisdiction.

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“We’re not going to allow Ottawa to pick and choose what coverage shouldn’t be available to Albertans based on issues they find politically palatable,” said LaGrange, adding that she believes Alberta could be saddled with administrative and startup costs for an entirely new insurance system.

“What I find unpalatable is the fact that the federal government continues to try and usurp the authority of provincial governments,” said LaGrange, who added the national pharmacare plan had more to do with a political alliance with the NDP “than in actually enhancing programs for individuals.”

Instead, the province is demanding per-capita funding to enhance what LaGrange called an already “robust” pharmacare program that she’s keen to enhance, although she admitted details about the federal proposal are scarce.

Under the Alberta health insurance plan, birth control is not universally covered, nor is every person with diabetes eligible for diabetes supplies prescribed by their doctor to be publicly paid. Beginning in 2022, the province covered continuous glucose monitors, but only for those under 18 years old who are insulin-dependent.

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Advocacy group Friends of Medicare said in a release earlier Monday LaGrange’s stance was “outrageous,” since one in five Canadian households reported in 2021 that they did not have insurance to cover any of the cost of prescriptions.

“To claim that all Albertans have access to drug coverage because they can buy a benefit plan if they can afford one is intentionally misleading and beyond offensive,” said executive director Chris Gallaway.

LaGrange isn’t alone in voicing opposition to the national pharmacare plan. Quebec is also reportedly looking to opt out.

With news of the pharmacare agreement last week, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce expressed concern about what it worried could be a costly and complicated system, with less access to new drugs that would be accessible under private plans.

“Provinces will be concerned about new obligations they may not want. Ultimately, single-payer pharmacare is a risk our country can’t afford right now, and would only serve to offer less coverage at higher costs to Canadians,” said Kathy Megyery, senior vice-president.

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Still, Alberta’s Opposition NDP and medical advocates have been calling for the province to follow British Columbia’s move last year to cover contraception, including the birth control pill.

Studies suggest unplanned pregnancies cost government-funded health and social systems far more than universal access to contraception would.

On Monday, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters the deal will require negotiations to get everyone on board in the same way all provinces eventually agreed to universal health care.

“The premier in Alberta will have to explain to their citizens why they’re refusing to take action that would save lives, save money for those people and improve our health care outcomes,” said Singh.

Luanne Metz, Alberta NDP health critic, said in a statement Monday helping people access medication will reduce overall health care expenses, and national buying power will help reduce the costs.

“Instead of welcoming assistance for Albertans who are suffering from the affordability crisis, the UCP has continued its schoolyard scrap with the federal government and is bowing to pressure from lobbyists,” said Metz.

X: @reportrix

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