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Free prescriptions for many children and young adults in Ontario set to end in March

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Free taxpayer-funded prescriptions to children and young adults under 25 will end in March if they have private insurance coverage.

The looming change in the OHIP+ pharmacare program, expected to save $250 million a year, was first announced in late June as Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives took power but the time frame for implementation remained a mystery until now.

Changes to Ontario’s OHIP+ pharmacare program will impact children and young adults covered under private insurance plans. Drugs will still be free for those without insurance.
Changes to Ontario’s OHIP+ pharmacare program will impact children and young adults covered under private insurance plans. Drugs will still be free for those without insurance.  (NICOLE CRAINE / NYT)

“The government is fixing OHIP+ by focusing benefits on those who need them the most,” said a notice posted online on a government website this week putting the proposal out for public comment until the end of January.

Sources said the government hopes to have the necessary systems in place with insurers and pharmacies by late March.

Under the new plan, children and young adults will continue to get free prescriptions if they or their parents do not have private health insurance coverage.

Otherwise, private insurance plans become the “first payer” for prescription medicines.

At issue is how pharmacists will be able to verify whether customers under 25 have private coverage, or deductibles or co-payments.

The Ontario Pharmacists Association said it supports the initiative and is eager to have a smooth, streamlined process to make sure children and young adults get the medicines they need without snags.

“There’s still some technical issues and IT system issues to work out,” Allen Malek, the association’s executive vice-president and chief pharmacy officer, told the Star on Friday.

At drug stores, pharmacists will ask customers if they have insurance and check their coverage online. But pharmacists are concerned about the complications of performing a “policing” function on behalf of the government.

“It puts us at a risk we cannot necessarily protect against,” said Malek, concerned some customers, whose insurance plans require them to cover some of their drug costs through co-pays or deductibles, may say they do not have insurance to avoid paying anything.

The association is concerned the government will make pharmacies liable for the costs if it’s later discovered the customer had private insurance.

Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office would not specify how the system would be made fail-safe, other than to say “our government is broadly engaging with employers, pharmacies and insurance companies as part of our efforts to ensure a smooth transition and implementation.”

New Democrat MPP and health critic France Gelinas (Nickel Belt) said the change will be more costly to administer and prone to complications.

“This patchwork system is the most likely to have big cracks for people to fall through, especially since, right now, the government has no sure way to figure out which children have or have not been put back on their parent’s private insurance plans.”

The Green party questioned the promised cost savings, saying Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has put them as low as $100 million and as high as $300 million at different times.

“They have been playing fast and loose with the numbers,” said a statement from the office of Green Leader Mike Schreiner, MPP for Guelph.

About 4,400 medications are eligible under the pharmacare plan launched a year ago by the previous Liberal government.

In his fall economic statement, Fedeli estimated the move will save “at least” $250 million.

“The government promised that it would find efficiencies while ensuring that vital public services are affordable and sustainable, now and in the years to come,” he wrote.

Ford has promised to find $6 billion in annual spending cuts in a bid to eliminate a provincial deficit the government pegs at $14.5 billion.

Drugs covered under OHIP+ are the same ones used in the Ontario Drug Benefit Program for seniors and people on social assistance.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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