Ontario to end program providing health care to uninsured residents
The Ontario government will be ending a program that provides free-of-charge health-care services to uninsured people at the end of the month, something doctors say is extremely concerning for marginalized communities.
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was first ramping up, the ministry of health established temporary funding for doctors to provide health-care providers to treat those without coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).
The program allowed anyone to access “medically necessary physician and hospital services.”
In a memo sent to Ontario hospitals and health providers, and provided to CTV News Toronto, the government said this funding would end on March 31.
“Starting April 1, 2023, hospitals should return to pre-pandemic billing practices for uninsured patients,” the memo reads.
“As they did pre-pandemic, uninsured persons will continue to have access to some publicly funded health care services including primary care at one of Ontario’s 75 Community Health Centres, midwifery care, public health, and emergency care. Regardless of an individual’s health card status, Ontario’s public hospitals cannot refuse to provide services to a patient who is faced with a life-threatening medical emergency.”
- Download our app to get local alerts on your device
- Get the latest local updates right to your inbox
In a statement, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) expressed concern about this decision, saying it will be “detrimental to the livelihood of marginalized Ontarians who often face the greatest barriers in our society.”
“Instead, the government will rely on the goodwill of physicians who often exercise a moral obligation to care for uninsured persons without being compensated,” the OMA, which represents the political, clinical, and economic interests of Ontario physicians, said.
An uninsured person is someone who lacks private or provincial health insurance and most often impacts those without residency status, people waiting for permanent residency, foreign workers between contracts, and international students not covered by their universities or colleges.
Challenges also exist for those who experience homelessness and who may not have access to a health card.
The OMA wants the Ministry of Health to extend the program temporarily until a long-term solution can be developed.
The ministry, for its part, says the funding was put in place as a temporary measure to ensure people had access to medical services when it was difficult to leave the province during travel restrictions.
“With lower rates of COVID-19 and the ending of public health restrictions, the province is winding down its pandemic response measures to focus resources on delivering services Ontarians need the most,” it said in a statement to CTV News Toronto.
Doctors have expressed their apprehension over the changes being made so suddenly, especially considering no further action has been taken to reduce other barriers to health care.
Dr. Michael Warner, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, told CTV News Toronto that suddenly ending a program that solved a real equity issue is “cruel.”
“We're not talking about people who can no longer go to Buffalo to get an MRI. We're talking about people who don't have a home,” he said “It was a very good policy that rectified a major inequity that existed before March 25, 2020.”
In order to get a health card in Ontario, an individual needs to physically show up at a Service Ontario centre, provide three forms of identification, and have a home address. The forms, Warner added, are also only in English and French.
“What it means is that if you don't have a health card, you're much less likely to get preventive and primary care because you're not going have an ongoing relationship with a primary care practitioner,” he said.
“When you do get sick, it's going to be a bigger emergency that's going to cost the system more. And those on the margins are the ones who are going to be harmed the most in addition to the physicians who treat those marginalized groups, they're just going to be working for free, and that's not fair either.”
While uninsured individuals are able to seek care at community clinics and hospitals without a health card, long-time street nurse Cathy Crowe says she can’t think of any benefit to ending the program.
“There's literally no logic in the decision apart from it means that money that was going to this will go elsewhere,” she said, adding that this will put more pressures on community health centres and hospitals that will be tasked with providing care. “It's mean-spirited. If the premier and his people think that it's easy to get into a community health center, it's not. There's waiting list to become patients there as well. And emergency rooms, my god the doctors in Toronto ERs anyway, are swamped.”
“The last thing they need is people coming in for an ear infection … they don't need people coming in for ‘I'm out of my medication, can you help me.’”
Crowe added that any barriers to access would especially prevent unhoused individuals from seeking care, regardless of the location.
When the funding became available in 2020, it was a game changer,” Dr. Andrew Boozary with the University Health Network, told CTV News Toronto.
There are about half a million people in Ontario who do not have insurance, Boozary noted.
“Removing that stigma and barrier for people to access care was a crucial part in what we were trying to do to improve health in marginalized communities,” he said.
“I think the lack of engagement or consultation to have or pull back a program like this will have a real ripple effect through people who will have now much more uncertainty about where or when they can bank on goodwill, which seems to be indicating the memo, as opposed to the kind of policies we need to ensure that people can stay and be healthy.”
Boozary said the pandemic also shed light on how people’s socioeconomic conditions impacted not just their health but the care they received.
“To not learn and build policy on these learnings that came at a very high cost of human life and more disease … That's the really challenging part to reconcile right now,” he said.
“If the policy messaging is correct, this does real damage to our notions of universality.”
The news also comes as a deal with Ontario optometrists alters coverage for eye exams under OHIP, reducing the number of exams that are covered for seniors to once every 18 months. Seniors will also no longer receive unlimited minor follow-up assessments and people with cataracts will only be covered if they have “clinically significant decreased vision” or if a surgical referral is made.
Toronto Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Johnston to launch foreign interference hearings in July, calls allegations of bias 'quite simply false'
Canada's special rapporteur on foreign interference David Johnston calls the allegations swirling around his objectivity 'quite simply false,' and said Tuesday he plans to push ahead with his work, launching public hearings next month
Ford calls for ouster, Poilievre decries Liberal response to Bernardo prison transfer
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling on the Liberals to keep "multiple murderers" in maximum-security prison, as fallout continues over the transfer of convicted killer Paul Bernardo to a medium-security institution in Quebec.
Sex harassment case involving Trudeau Foundation should be heard in N.L., lawyer says
The lawyer representing a woman who alleges she was sexually harassed by a former Northwest Territories premier says her client would likely have to end her lawsuit if a judge determines the trial should be moved to Quebec.
Travellers from 13 more countries now eligible to visit Canada without a visa
Canada is expanding the list of countries whose residents are eligible to visit this country without a travel visa.
Canadian military joined recent U.S. forum on UFOs; Pentagon trying to identify 'metallic' orbs
The Canadian military has confirmed it participated in a May 2023 forum for Five Eyes intelligence partners that was held by the director of the Pentagon's UFO research program.
Global News defends reporting in face of Han Dong lawsuit
Global News and its parent company Corus Entertainment say in response to a lawsuit filed by Han Dong that their reporting about the Toronto MP was based on a detailed investigation involving multiple sources.
A killer rabbit, jousting bear and Robin Hood walk into a bar: Ancient manuscript reveals new details on medieval comedy
A rare manuscript detailing comedy shows and drinking songs from the 15th century revealed what medieval audiences found funny more than 500 years ago.
Conservative filibuster threatens potential citizenship for children born abroad
Andrea Fessler found out her third daughter didn't qualify for Canadian citizenship -- even though her two older daughters did -- when she arrived at the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong to register.
Rent across Canada climbs to 20 per cent above pandemic lows: report
Across Canada, the average price of rent climbed back up after pandemic lows, with the monthly rate new tenants face now 20 per cent higher than it was two years ago, according to just-released rental data.
Quebec politicians pass bill that will give themselves a $30K raise
Quebec MNAs are about to get a significant pay raise. The National Assembly adopted Bill 24 on Tuesday afternoon, which will increase the politicians' base salaries by $30,000 per year.
'A situation that's unprecedented': Quebec confronted with more than 150 wildfires
As one Quebec city that had been threatened by wildfires lifted an evacuation order Tuesday, authorities turned their attention to communities in the northern and northwestern parts of the province where firefighters worked to beat back threats from out-of-control blazes.
Judge allows eviction of homeless encampment underneath Montreal highway
A Quebec judge has authorized the eviction of a homeless encampment underneath Montreal's Ville-Marie expressway to allow for repairs to the road to proceed after several delays.
VIDEO | Londoners remember the Afzaal family
Marking the two year anniversary of the alleged terror attack that took the lives of four members of the same family, the board has announced an Anti-Islamophobia Strategy.
VIDEO | Muslim community seeks healing and safety amid lingering shadows of alleged terrorist attack
On this day in 2021, four out of five members of a London, Ont. family were killed while they were out for a walk and struck by a vehicle, in an apparently deliberate attack.
Special air quality statement in effect for Forest City
As wildfires continue to burn in Northern Ontario and Quebec, a special air quality statement has been issued for London and neighbouring counties as of Tuesday evening.
Wildfire smoke from Quebec, northern Ontario lingers in K-W
A haze is lingering in the air and there’s a faint smell of smoke in areas across southwestern Ontario as wildfires continue to burn in Quebec and northern Ontario.
Trustee brings school board to court over temporary suspension for alleged breach of conduct
A trustee with the Waterloo Region District School Board brought the board to court on Tuesday, arguing that a suspension handed to him in 2022 was unfair and unreasonable.
OPP turn to Six Nations residence in search for Amber Ellis
The search for Amber Ellis, a Hagersville woman reported missing in March 2021, is returning to the community where she was last seen.
Emergency orders expanded in northeast Ont. due to forest fires
While firefighters get more forest fires under control in northern Ontario, travel restrictions declared under an emergency order are being expanded in several communities.
Northern Ont. teen, 13, facing new sexual assault charge, 10 total
A 13-year-old male from Elliot Lake in northern Ontario has been charged with sexual assault again, bringing the total to 10, after another survivor came forward.
3 people attacked by dog in Burlington, animal shot dead by police
A dog has been shot dead by police after three people were attacked in Burlington Tuesday afternoon, police say.
Air quality risk in Ottawa high as wildfire smoke blankets the city
A special air quality statement remains in effect for the National Capital Region because of wildfire smoke blowing across the region. Environment Canada's air quality health index is at its highest level of risk.
How to take care of yourself and your pets in smoky conditions
The wildfire smoke blanketing Ottawa can cause a variety of health problems for people and animals. Ottawa has already seen an crease in emergency room visits for respiratory issues as thick smoke hangs over the region.
Centennial Lake fire 'greatly suppressed', area mayor says; evacuation order still in effect
The wildfire burning at Centennial Lake, about 150 km west of Ottawa has been significantly reduced and is being held with a burnt area.
Active police investigation on Northway Ave
Windsor police are on the scene of an active investigation near a new housing development in the city’s west end.
Estranged husband charged with first-degree murder of missing woman
Windsor police say they have arrested a Michigan man for the murder of his estranged wife, who was reported missing last month.
Windsor's air quality impacted by wildfires across the country
Smoke from wildfires burning across Canada is beginning to cause poor air quality in Windsor.
Multi-vehicle collision in Midland construction zone sends 4 to hospital
Provincial police are investigating a serious collision in Midland.
Air quality concerns mount as the smell of smoke fills the air in Simcoe County and Muskoka
Residents in Simcoe County and Muskoka are advised to be cautious as forest fires in Quebec impact the air quality, prompting a special statement from Environment Canada.
Barrie, Ont. man arrested in human trafficking investigation involving student
A Barrie man faces charges in connection with a human trafficking investigation where police believe there could be more victims.
Rain has helped Shelburne firefighting efforts, crews now hoping for a break in showers
Firefighters battling the 25,000-hectare Shelburne wildfire say the wet weather has helped crews directly attack the blaze, now they’re hoping for a break in the rain.
New N.S. Health website shares estimated ER wait times
A new website created by Nova Scotia’s health authority shares hourly estimated wait times for many emergency departments across the province.
Murphy’s Logic: Fox News should not be banned
Steve Murphy makes the case for keeping Fox News on Maritime screens.
Expected hot, dry summer means more fire, smoke coming to Alberta
As the definition of a typical Canadian summer evolves, experts say 'hot' and 'dry' could be the buzzwords of the season.
Survey finds high rate of workplace sexual harassment in Alberta, new online tool launched
A new survey finds that being sexually harassed at work can be a common and challenging occurrence, prompting one non-profit organization to create a new online resource for Alberta workers.
Man charged with arson in connection with Pearce Estate Park fire
After allegedly admitting to starting a fire in Pearce Estate Park in Calgary's southeast on Monday, a man now faces a charge of arson.
RCMP investigating abandoned home in connection with disappearance of woman in 2020
The search for a Manitoba woman reported missing three years ago has lead RCMP to an abandoned home in western Manitoba for an investigation.
'Something we need to prepare for': ECCC says warm summer expected in Winnipeg
The heat in the city of Winnipeg will moderate in the next few days, but Environment Canada says residents should expect a hot summer this year.
Manitoba Crown corporation explains departures of senior executives
Manitoba's Crown-owned vehicle insurance corporation offered more details Tuesday on recent turmoil that has seen the departure of senior executives and a big jump in the cost of technology upgrades.
B.C. prepares for fire evacuations, displacements amid healthcare staffing crisis
The officials tasked with preparing for and responding to natural disasters in the province are bracing for widespread evacuations of B.C. communities amid tinder-dry conditions that are already prompting dire wildfire predictions.
Drinking alcohol will be allowed in some Burnaby parks this summer
Visitors will be able to legally drink booze in some Burnaby parks starting June 23, as city councillors voted in favour of an alcohol in parks pilot project on Monday.
Vancouver lifeguard shortage not to blame for reduced West End pool hours, park board says
The chair of the Vancouver Park Board says he has received several complaints since expanded hours at Second Beach Pool went away.
EPS constable, former peace officers charged after 2020 custody death
An Edmonton Police Service constable and two former peace officers have been charged after a man died in a cell in 2020.
'We never give up': RCMP helicopter joins search for 14-year-old boy in North Saskatchewan River
An RCMP helicopter is assisting with the search for the 14-year-old boy who went missing in the North Saskatchewan River nearly 48 hours ago.
Charges dropped against Alberta woman accused of mailing animals
Crown prosecutors say charges against an Alberta woman accused of mailing two puppies and a kitten have been dropped.