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Release/Open Letter Coalition Applauds Wynne Government for Reversing Course on Seniors’ Drug Fee Increase

Posted: April 8, 2016

(April 8, 2016)

Toronto — This week, Ontario’s government announced that it is canceling its plans to dramatically increase user fees for seniors’ drugs after more than 80 organizations signed onto a letter to the Premier asking her to revisit the idea. The government’s plan, announced in the 2016 Ontario Budget in February, would have increased the deductible for seniors’ drugs from $100 to $170 – a 70 per cent increase — and co-payments would have risen to $7.11 per prescription.  Under this plan, seniors with incomes of more than $19,300 for a single person or $32,300 for a couple would have faced these increases. In late March, the Ontario Health Coalition and the Older Canadians Network wrote an open letter to the Premier asking her to revisit the decision pointing out that it would not only cause hardship for seniors that can hardly be described as high income but it also compromised the core tenets of public health care. More than 80 organizations, from seniors’ groups to doctors, nurses and unions, signed onto the letter.

 

The Ontario Health Coalition and the Older Canadians Network applaud the government for listening to our concerns and thank all the organizations and individuals that joined the open letter and contacted the government to help win the reversal. As we outlined to the Premier, needed health care must be funded equitably through a progressive tax system in which everyone, including the wealthy and corporations, pay their fair share, not through user fees when people are aging, or when they are sick and dying.

 

MEDIA RELEASE

OPEN LETTER

Open Letter

 

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne,

Premier of Ontario

Room 281, Main Legislative Building,

Queen’s Park,

Toronto, ON  M7A 1A1

 

Dear Premier Wynne,

As presented, the 2016 Ontario Budget contains a plan to have many seniors pay substantially more for prescription drugs, based on their incomes. In addition, the government is planning to increase the co-payment for filling prescriptions. Under this plan, seniors with incomes over $19,300 for a single person or $32,300 for a couple, will have to pay nearly double the deductible before their drugs are covered. Deductible costs will increase from $100 to as much as $170. In addition, all seniors, regardless of income, will see their co-payment rise when they go in to get prescriptions filled.

 

Premier, we are asking you to cancel the fee increases for seniors and uphold the principle of universality for our health care system.  As Ontario pays down its deficit, the fundamental values that underlie our public health care programs should not be abandoned.

 

Universal publicly-funded health care is understood as a fundamental value in Canada. The idea that the wealthy and the poor share the same health services and therefore have a common interest in its quality and success, is cornerstone to our health system.

 

This is the foundational belief for our public health care system, supported unanimously by all political parties when the Canada Health Act was passed, and it is the foundational value upon which we are calling for an expansion of public health care in Canada to cover a national prescription medicine program for all Canadians. Ontario has, in many ways, led that call. We are asking you not to break now with the principles that underlie that vision.

 

Public health care is about taking care of one another. We pay through our taxes for care when we are of working age and healthy –and we share the cost across society — so that the burden for care is not shouldered by the sick, the elderly and the dying. This is a point of pride for most of us.

 

Already seniors face mounting out-of-pocket costs for long-term care, respite and medical supplies. As local hospital services are closed in more and more towns, seniors face significant new costs for rehabilitation, lab tests, and travel costs.  Unofficially, home care is already subject to means-testing, forcing families to shoulder ever more of the expense. When one adds to these existing user costs to the planned higher deductibles and co-payments for drugs, the burden for middle income seniors is becoming unbearable.

 

In fact, Premier, as you know, across Canada, the progressive public interest organizations that work on health care are advocating for the principles of the Canada Health Act not only to be safeguarded in hospitals and clinics, but also extended to cover home care and drugs in a bid to protect equity and reduce suffering as health care is reformed.  It is distressing to see the Ontario government moving in the opposite direction.

 

That our public services should enhance social cohesion and improve equity is a quintessentially liberal idea. Indeed, the universality and equity principles were written into the Canada Health Act under the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau and Health Minister Monique Bégin.  They have been upheld by governments of all stripes since. They should not be abandoned lightly.

 

Ontario already has a means-tested method to provide income for needed health care services. It is called the tax system.  Through the rebuilding of a progressive tax system that asks the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share, funding can be raised for needed care and services. Premier, there is no reason to increase user fees on people when they are elderly, sick, dying and least able to pay. Respectfully, we ask you to reconsider the policy direction of dismantling universality and subjecting more health care services to user fees at point of need.

 

Sincerely,

John Maxwell, Executive Director AIDS Committee of Toronto

Derrell R. Dular, Managing Director Alliance of Seniors/ Older Canadians Network     

Roslyn Harris, Chair Association of Jewish Seniors

Michael McMahon, Chair Belleville Health Coalition

Curtis Coates & Mary Jane Froats, Co-Chairs Brockville Health Coalition

Wanda Tucker, Chair Campbellford Health Coalition

John Meguerian, Vice Chair Canadian Association of Retired Persons – Niagara Chapter

Sean Meagher, Executive Director Canadian Doctors for Medicare

Barbara Santosuosso, Program Manager Canadian Treatment Action Council

Fred Hahn, President & Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario

Rob Driskell, President Canadian Union of Public Employees – Local 4000

Josephine Grayson, Chair Care Watch

Shirley Roebuck, Chair Chatham-Kent Health Coalition

Andrew Lee, President Chinese Golden Age Club of Mississauga

Marlene Beaman-McQuay, Co-Chair City of Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition

Malcolm Buchanan, President Congress of Union Retirees – Hamilton, Burlington & Oakville Council

Lyle Hargrove,President Congress of Union Retirees – South Central Council

Barry Stevens, President Congress of Union Retirees – Toronto Area Council

Treena Hollingworth, Chair Concerned Citizens – Stratford Area

Georgie Clarke, President Concerned Friends of Ontario Citizens in Care Facilities

Michael Butler, National Health Care Campaigner Council of Canadians

Roy Brady, Chapter Chair Council of Canadians – Peterborough – Kawarthas Chapter

Fiona McMurran, Chapter Chair Council of Canadians – South Niagara Chapter

Douglas Hayes, Chapter Chair Council of Canadians – Windsor – Essex Chapter

David Rogers, President of the Board of Directors Creekside Senior’s Estates

Charlie Courneyea & Trish McAuliffe, Co-Chairs Durham Health Coalition

Kimberly DeYong, Chair Essex County Health Coalition

George Kelly, Chairperson Guelph / Wellington Coalition for Social Justice

Kevin Smith, President Grey Bruce Labour Council

Dr. Ted Haines, Member & Rolf Gerstenberger, Co-Chair Hamilton Health Coalition

Tara Kainer, Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Committee of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, Kingston, ON

Harold Pickering, Co-Chair Kingston Health Coalition

Jo-Anne M. Boulding, Barrister, Solicitor and Executive Director Lake Country Community Legal Clinic

Claire Bélanger, President Le Centre des aînés francophones de Port Colborne

James Mulhern, President Lindsay & District Labour Council

Peter Bergmanis, Co-Chair London Health Coalition

Susan Doyle, Executive Director Lumacare

Bob Harrick, Chair Mississauga Seniors’ Council

Dr. Amarjit Banwatt, President Mississauga Seniors Club

Zul Kassamali, President Multicultural Council for Ontario Seniors

Herb John, President National Pensioners Federation

Sue Hotte, Chair Niagara Health Coalition

Sue McIntyre, Co-Chair North Bay Health Coalition

Erin Harris, Past-President Older Women’s Network

Sayed Hassan Fazl, Director Ontario Afghan Family and Seniors Services Association

Michael Hurley, President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions

Suzanne Clancy, President Ontario Federation of Union Retirees

Natalie Mehra, Executive Director Ontario Health Coalition

Eugene Lefrancois President Ontario Network Injured Workers Group

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President Ontario Public Services Employees Union

Mike Donaldson, President Ontario Public Services Employees Union – Local 464

Tara Maszczakiewicz, President Ontario Public Services Employees Union – Local 684

Gareth Jones, Executive Board Member Ontario Public Services Employees Union – Region 4

Paul Elliott, President Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation

Mary Lou Cunningham, President Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation – Active Retirees Members Chapter 11 Thames Valley

Manfred Netzel, President Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation – Active Retirees Members Chapter 12 Toronto

Stuart Ryan, Co-Chair Ottawa Health Coalition

Bryan J. Smith, Chair Oxford Coalition for Social Justice

Marion Burton, President Peterborough and District Labour Council

Charlene Avon & Roy Brady, Co-Chairs Peterborough Health Coalition

Threasa Watchorn, Manager Port Colborne Senior Centre

Len Hope, Chair Port Elgin Health Coalition

Doris Grinspun, Chief Executive Officer Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario

Bob Martin, Chair Ritz Lutheran Villa

Shirley Roebuck, Chair Sarnia Lambton Health Coalition

Margo Dale, Chair Sault Ste. Marie Health Coalition

Ron Sim, General Manager Sault Ste. Marie Soup Kitchen Community Centre

Sue Hotte, Chair Save the Welland Hospital Group

Karu Navarajnarajah, Sri Lankan Tamil Seniors Group of Etobicoke

Doug Macpherson, National Coordinator Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees

Dorthy Klein, Co-Chair Sudbury Health Coalition

Elizabeth Forestell, Executive Director The Neighborhood Group

Greg Snider, President Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group

Jules Tupker, Co-Chair Thunder Bay Health Coalition

Phyllis Creighton, Toronto Raging Grannies

Jerry Dias, President Unifor

Len Hope, Executive Board Member Unifor Retired Workers Council

Les MacDonald, Chairperson Unifor – Local 222 Retired Workers Chapter – Oshawa

Roxie Baker, Chairperson Unifor – Local 1325 Retired Workers Chapter – Stratford

Bob Such, Chairperson Unifor – Local 1520 Retired Workers Chapter – London

Gerry Graham, President United Senior Citizens of Ontario

Phuoc Tran, President Vietnamese Cambodian Laotian Services Association

Ken Lewenza Jr., Co-Chair Windsor Health Coalition

Pat Armstrong, Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology York University

 

– 30 –

 

For more information: Natalie Mehra, executive director, Ontario Health Coalition (416) 441-2502; Derrell Dular, managing director, Older Canadians Network (416) 260-3429.

 

 

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