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. 

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Kath­leen Finlay’s inter­view on The Morn­ing Show on Glob­al News Radio