QUEEN'S PARK — NDP MPP Sara Singh (Brampton Centre) and kidney dialysis patients are questioning why the Ford government is delaying the reversal of its cut to out-of-country OHIP coverage, leaving Ontario dialysis patients without coverage for out-of-country treatments.
Singh was joined at Queen's Park by Bonnie Field, John Landreville and Bret Sheppard, three Ontarians with kidney failure, who shared how Ford's cuts to OHIP will impact their ability to leave the country. Field shared correspondences with Health Minister Christine Elliott that illustrate how, two months after Elliott and the Ford government promised to reverse their cut to dialysis support, nothing has happened.
"For Ontarians like Bonnie, John and Bret, who live with kidney failure, access to out-of-country OHIP reimbursements for dialysis treatment is essential to their ability to leave the country for any reason, be it for work, studies, or a family visit," Singh said. "Many people with kidney failure require dialysis multiple times a week, and the current OHIP reimbursement of $210 per treatment had meant they were at least partially covered when a cross-border work trip or family event came up. Instead of improving that partial coverage for a life-sustaining procedure, Ford made things worse with another cut.
"As of Oct. 1, when Ford's cut to out-of-country OHIP coverage kicks in, dialysis patients will have to pay 100 per cent out of pocket for treatments outside Canada. Private insurers consider kidney failure a pre-existing condition, so it's impossible for folks like Bonnie, John and Bret to purchase private travel insurance to cover their dialysis."
In Question Period on May 16, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath asked Minister Elliott if her government will listen to Ontarians with kidney failure and reverse the reckless cut that will leave them unable to travel, indicating that several dialysis patients, including Landreville, were sitting in the Queen's Park galleries. Elliott agreed, committing to reverse the cut.
"Over two months after Elliott was challenged and made this commitment in question period, after repeated e-mails and phone calls to the Premier and the Ministry of Health, dialysis patients had heard nothing, no response," Field, who received her first kidney transplant nine years ago, said. "Until last week, when I received a letter from Christine Elliott stating, 'I have asked my ministry to look at options to address this challenge.' No timeline, no details, no collaboration, as Elliott had promised, with dialysis patients. We are no farther ahead than we were in May, when the cut to OHIP was first announced."
"There is a recklessness and disregard to the ministry's cuts to health care," said Landreville. "Seventy days ago, the minister promised to redress the province's recklessness by consulting with patients directly affected by cuts to specific programs. The fact that consulting with patients wasn't a priority before these cuts were proposed is indicative of the disregard this government has shown to some of the most vulnerable in our province.
"Despite entreaties from myself and other patients, the minister has refused to follow through on her promise to consult with us, to understand just what this cut would do to our lives. Now, we're back again to stating our case. Health care for us is not a talking point, or an abstract line on a provincial budget. It's our lives."
Sheppard, who started dialysis in January, is eager to visit his family in the United States, but cannot afford to pay out of pocket for dialysis treatments three times a week while there, in addition to other travel costs. “I don’t have deep pockets,” he said. “I just want this issue fixed so I can see my family and have a break.”
"The Ford Conservatives are punching holes in our health care system, and real people are suffering," said Singh. "People like Bonnie, John and Bret deserve to have a government that ensures they get the same opportunities as all Ontarians."