Photo | CBC
Starting January 1st, 2018, Ontario is implementing OHIP+, a new drug plan coverage that will provide children and youth ages 24 and under with prescription drug coverage. OHIP+ will cover over 4,000 prescription drugs that are currently included in the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program, or funded through Exceptional Access Program.
OHIP+ was announced by Kathleen Wynne in May 2017. Wynne states the plan will be included in the 2017 budget alongside higher minimum wage and other social policy changes. The Liberals introduced economic updates to the 2017 budget alongside a promise to create a “Strong and Fair Ontario,” which soon became a central campaign promise for the upcoming provincial election. The plan to provide children and youth with free prescription drugs has been met with praise by Canadian healthcare workers.
On November 14th, Charles Sousa, the Minister of Finance, delivered the 2017 Review in legislature, stating that OHIP+ is part of the commitment to create greater fairness and opportunity for all Ontarians. Patients will not need to formally enroll to receive access to free coverage—the only documents required are a valid health card and an eligible prescription.
Ontario residents who attend universities in another province will still be able to receive coverage under OHIP+ with a valid health card and prescription.
OHIP+ grants financial relief for insurance providers that cover drugs in insurance plans. When the budget was first introduced in the Spring, Ontario estimated that expanded prescription drug coverage would cost the provincial government $456 million a year, leading to big savings for insurance companies. The leftover money could potentially be used towards expanded insurance coverage.
OHIP+ is part of the Liberal “strong and fairer Ontario” promise, which includes an increase in minimum wage, cheaper tuition, expanded daycare, funding for seniors, and other social policies. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath expresses concern that the proposed budget will be of little help to the middle class. Responding to the Liberal Drug Plan, the provincial NDPs pledged to create an expanded provincial pharmacare plan, under which people of all ages will be covered, but the number of prescription medications included would be limited to 125.
With the provincial election coming up in June 2018, polls have showed increased support for the Liberal party. In July, shortly after the new pharmacare plan was announced, Liberals tied with the Provincial Conservatives, with 30 percent of Ontarians saying that they will vote Conservative in the upcoming election, and 27 percent saying that they will vote Liberal. About 23 percent of Ontarians say that they support NDP.