The Most Vulnerable at Risk but Minister of Health Ignores Concerns
The Center for Patient Protection has received numerous messages of concern from elderly citizens who have been receiving benefits under the Ontario government’s Drug Co‐payment Program who suddenly found themselves cut off the program on August 1, 2019. These are not new applicants to the program; some have been on it for several years.
Some alarmed seniors have said they will have to stop taking medication altogether for several months until they can save enough money to cover the $100 deductible. Others say they will cut their pills in half to reduce the burden of the co‐payments.
This will impose a huge and unexpected financial burden on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens at a time when they can least afford it — because they are low‐income seniors.
More than three weeks since being informed of this urgent situation that is putting the health our most vulnerable population at risk, Christine Elliott, Ontario’s Minister of Health, continues to ignore the concerns and has responded with a wall of silence.
All the seniors affected by the cuts are receiving Old Age Security (OAS), the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Ontario’s GAINS supplement, which is available only for the lowest income seniors. It defies logic that their income would be so high as to suddenly make them ineligible for the drug co‐payment program they were previously receiving.
The action places those who were previously covered by the program at significant risk. Some alarmed seniors have told The Center for Patient Protection that they will have to stop taking medication altogether for several months until they can save enough money to cover the $100 deductible that they did not anticipate and is outside their monthly budget. Others say they will cut their pills in half to reduce the burden of the co‐payments. It is not uncommon for seniors to be taking 10 different medications a day. Some of these are for chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and for high risk of stroke. Being thrown off the program could have a catastrophic outcome for these seniors.
The Center reached out to Christine Elliott, Minister of Health in the Ford government, more than three weeks ago, to make her aware of the situation. Despite this, and our interview on Global News Radio’s Morning Show on the subject and the risks being caused to affected seniors, the Minister has refused to respond or even acknowledge the concerns.
Apart from being completely disrespectful, such silence is needlessly leaving affected seniors in a state of extreme anxiety. That is irresponsible for anyone, and it is totally unforgivable on the part of a minister of health.
Urgent action is required to prevent irreparable harm being done to people who will be forced to go without life‐sustaining prescription medications because they can’t afford the annual deductible fee and dispensing co‐payment charges.
This is an important developing story, and we will keep you informed of our progress.