The redistributive effect of the move from age-based to income-based prescription drug coverage in British Columbia, Canada
Objectives To explore the redistributive impact of two different pharmaceutical financing policies (age-based versus income-based pharmacare) on the distribution of income in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada.Methods Using household-level data on all payments that are used to finance prescription drugs in B.C. (including taxation and private payments), we performed a redistributive analysis to indicate how much income inequality in the province changed as a result of payments made for prescription drugs. We also illustrated changes in vertical equity (different treatment according to ability-to-pay) and horizontal equity (equals, according to ability-to-pay, being treated equally) between the two years separately through a pre-post policy examination.Results We found that payments made to finance prescription drugs increased overall income inequality in the province. This negative impact was larger after the move to income-based pharmacare. Our results also show increasing horizontal inequity after the policy change, and suggest that the increased reliance on out-of-pocket payments was a major source of the negative impact on the B.C.'s overall income distribution. We also show that the consequences of the move to income-based pharmacare would have been less severe had the level of public financing not decreased substantially between the two years.Conclusions The increase in income inequality in B.C. following the policy change was an unintended consequence of the move to income-based pharmacare. This finding is worth consideration as countries and jurisdictions weigh pharmaceutical policy alternatives.
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