Following the recommendations of the city’s Medical Officer of Health, the Toronto Board of Health is calling on the Ontario government to end the three-month wait for OHIP coverage for new residents and improve access to care to the city’s residents who are presently without health coverage.
The three-month rule is particularly difficult for new immigrants with permanent resident status and those returning to Canada after having lived abroad.
While there are agencies and health practitioners that provide limited health care to the uninsured population, a city staff report notes that demand far exceeds supply.
Others without OHIP coverage include people who have lost their identification, some refugees, temporary visa holders and undocumented residents.
While some of these uninsured may be able to afford expensive private insurance, many of these plans have strict eligibility requirements or exclude some health conditions according to a report by the Medical Officer of Health.
“Often, uninsured individuals will delay seeking healthcare until their condition is urgent and more complex requiring treatment in an emergency department and/or admission to hospital. This is costly to the healthcare system,” the report states.
The Medical Officer of health includes in his recommendations:
– Funding essential healthcare services for uninsured children and youth;
– Enable Community Health Centres to use dedicated provincial funding for uninsured residents;
– Fund primary care clinics to cover the uninsured;
– Establish healthcare facilities as safe environments where immigration status will not be reported to the federal authorities.
The Toronto Board of Health also endorsed a request to the Federal government to rescind recent cuts to the Interim Federal Health Plan for refugees.
Community advocacy group HealthForAll called the Toronto Board of Health’s recommendations a “landmark decision.”