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Nova Scotia palliative Home Care Drug Coverage

On February 1, 2012, in all areas of Nova Scotia, the province began funding drug coverage at no cost for palliative home care patients. The intent is to give Nova Scotians suffering from terminal conditions the freedom to make the choice of where they spend their last days. The option is not new as it has been available in parts of Nova Scotia to date, but the change makes this consistent across the province.

Palliative care is defined as an approach to care for people living with a life-threatening illness where the focus of care is comfort and maximizing quality of life for the patient and family. It is also referred to as end‑of-life care.

The Nova Scotia Hospice Palliative Care Association has been advocating equal access to drug coverage, associated with the needs of end-of-life care for many years. On September 23, 2011, the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness announced the change indicating that it would relieve some of the financial burden for families and make coverage easily accessible to all Nova Scotians. In order to facilitate these changes, the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness launched and expanded the Palliative Home Care Drug Coverage which will now allow patients nearing death full drug coverage if they want to spend their last days at home. Further:

  • The benefit is now available in all health districts in the province as opposed to only some health districts.
  • There are no copayment fees.
  • Pharmacies bill directly the Department of Health and Wellness for expenses.
  • Drugs are dispensed at community pharmacies.
  • Families still have the choice between hospitalization and home.

The eligibility criteria include patients:

  • receiving palliative care at home;
  • living in Nova Scotia who have a valid health card number;
  • diagnosed by a physician with a terminal illness;
  • accepted into a District Health Authority/IWK palliative care program;
  • assessed by the District Health Authority/IWK palliative care program team to be within 6 months of death.

Patients are approved for coverage and eligibility is determined by a palliative care nurse or palliative care physician who completes a Medication Authorization form listing all the approved medication classifications and forwards it to the community pharmacist. The pharmacy bills the cost of the approved medications to the Department of Health and Wellness.