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CMAJ Open. 2019 Oct 11;7(4):E618-E623. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20190085. Print 2019 Oct-Dec.

Income-related disparities in private prescription drug coverage in Canada.

Author information

1
Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.
2
Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC michael.law@ubc.ca.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Canada does not have universal public coverage for prescription drugs, which leaves an important role for private insurance plans. However, we do not have recent data on the characteristics of Canadians who report holding such coverage, particularly differences based on household income. We performed a study to examine the relation between household income and private drug insurance coverage in Canada.

METHODS:

We used data from the 2015-2016 cycle of the Canadian Community Health Survey to investigate the relation between household income and holding private drug insurance. We constructed modified multivariate Poisson regression models with robust error variances, including several potential confounders.

RESULTS:

Overall, 59.4% of respondents reported having private drug insurance. We found a strong dose-response relation between household income level and private drug insurance coverage: 19.8% of those with a household income less than $20 000 reported private coverage, compared to 76.2% of those with a household income of $80 000 or more.

INTERPRETATION:

Higher-income households are much more likely to hold private drug insurance coverage in Canada. This likely contributes to differential access to medicines and health outcomes by different income groups.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: Michael Law has consulted for Health Canada, the Hospital Employees’ Union and the Conference Board of Canada, and has provided expert witness testimony for the Attorney General of Canada. No other competing interests were declared.

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