Bulletin 19/04

November 15, 2004
TO: : Executive Council
Alternate Regional Vice-Presidents
Local Presidents
Labour Relations Officers

RE : Health Card for Drugs and Health Services

For several years now the PSAC has been in discussions in order to obtain a Health Card for the membership’s use in purchasing Drugs and Health Services. Questions on the status of this issue have repeatedly been asked by our local Presidents at our Presidents Conferences and individually by members to local, regional and national executives. John Gordon, the PSAC Executive Vice President, who represents the PSAC at the negotiations on this issue, recently issued a letter to one of our executives outlining some of the problems and the process for discussion on the Health Card negotiations.

To bring everyone up to date I am providing an excerpt of his letter in this bulletin for your information and distribution and/or posting for the membership. I would also draw your attention to the recent announcement that was put on the PSAC website on November 4, 2004 called “Update on the re-negotiation of the Public Service Health Care Plan”, which I have also attached.

“I know that many health care plans provide drug cards for their members, however few would be of the scope of the PSHCP. The PSHCP has over 520,000 members and provides coverage to over 1.4 million people when spouses and dependents are included. The plan provides coverage to not only the unionized employees of the Federal Public Service but also to management employees, as well as the RCMP, families of the Armed Forces, the House of Commons, and many other federal agencies. In addition, the PSHCP includes the retirees from all of these types of employment.

The Public Service Health Care Plan Trust (which is comprised of the 17 National Joint Council bargaining agents of which the PSAC is just one, the Federal Superannuate National Association, and the employer) was formed in April 2000 to help address the problems of rising health care costs, in part caused by the “downloading” of costs to the provinces, and the consequent reduction in services covered by the provincial plans. One of the conditions stipulated in the formation of the Trust was an agreement by all parties that the PSHCP would not be changed for a period of 5 years – that being March 31, 2005. This stipulation provided that the PSCHP benefits could not be lessened despite the panic raised by the soaring costs and the cries for “cost containment”.

Unfortunately, it also prevented any increase in benefits or changes to the Plan during this time. In other words, a drug card cannot be negotiated and/or implemented until after the expiry date of the PSHCP which again is March 31, 2005.

One of the key mandates of the Trust since its formation was to examine the feasibility of introducing a drug card which would allow members to pay only the 20% co-insurance at the point of sale. The Trust has done this work and has provided recommendations on the feasibility of providing a drug card to be considered in the renegotiation process.

Given the number of issues on the table and their complexity, negotiations have taken longer than expected. The last meeting took place from October 18-19, 2004, and the parties agreed that an extension of the originally agreed to time limits was necessary before initiating third party proceedings.

Acting on recommendations from the bargaining teams, the NJC Executive Committee with the participation of FSNA subsequently agreed to delay the date for initiating binding arbitration until June 1, 2005. The parties also agreed to extend the Plan and Trust Agreement beyond their current expiry date of March 31, 2005 to accommodate continued negotiations after this date, as necessary.”

Written by John Gordon, National Executive Vice President, PSAC.

In Solidarity,

Betty Bannon
National President