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Ford admonished for ending out-of-country health insurance for Ontarians

By October 1, the $2.8 million that Ontario provides for Canadians treated out-of-country will be slashed
Samuel Helguero Montreal, QC

By October 1, the $2.8 million that Ontario provides for Canadians treated out-of-country will be slashed. In a letter Wednesday, the federal Health Minister attacked Ford and his cabinet.

The letter, addressed by the Liberal party’s Ginette Petitpas Taylor to her provincial counterpart, Ontario’s Health Minister, Christine Elliott, labelled Ford’s policy initiative “inconsistent” with the Canadian Health Act.

The Act demands continual coverage for residents temporarily moving beyond Canadian borders.

“Ontario’s approach will mean that Ontario residents will have to cover the costs of care out of pocket, should they require medical attention while travelling,” wrote Petitpas Taylor.

Petitpas Taylor also expressed concern that by driving down foreign coverage, health insurance for travellers would be sharply driven up.

“If all publicly financed reimbursement of out-of-country physician and hospital services is eliminated, private health insurance premiums for travellers will inevitably rise for all Ontario residents.”

“Even modest increases could pose a hardship for some individuals.”

As Ontario’s Health Minister, Elliott held six-days of public consultations before deciding to move forward with the cuts. She cited the high costs and low return the program brought.

In the Conservative government’s initial April 2019 proposal to eliminate out-of-country health insurance, they cited how merely 5 percent of typical medical emergencies are covered by the traveller’s program.

In foreign hospitals, the government-administered insurance provides $400 per day for a high level of care, and $200 per day for other levels of care. Those receiving outpatient services can receive $50. Dialysis is also covered.

“[The program] may be giving people a false sense of security that they have coverage when the coverage is very, very limited,” said Conservative MP Robin Martin.

According to Ontario’s auditor general Bonnie Lysyk, the Ministry of Health typically goes through 88,000 claims for out-of-country medical services a year. The average applicant receives $127 for one claim.

Editor’s Note: This piece has been edited to reflect that Bonnie Lysyk is Ontario’s auditor General and not Canada’s.

In her 2018 report, Lysyk recommended modifications to out-of-country health services, including cuts to administrative costs and a single federal rate for reimbursement.

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Samuel Helguero
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