Here’s why OHIP and LifeLabs are trending in Ontario right now
Posted: June 1, 2022
(May 30, 2022)
By: Becky Robertson, blogTO
There’s a ton of chatter across social media today on the topic of healthcare in Ontario as we sit just days away from a Provincial Election, and people are calling Premier Doug Ford out hard on what appears to be some cuts he’s recently made to OHIP coverage.
Many residents who’ve been sent to private labs for certain testing that they say used to be free in the province are now claiming to be facing hefty and very unexpected fees, according to the numerous reports floating around online.
Apparent charges for routine cancer screening bloodwork in particular are what many are calling the beginning of a concerning trend towards privatized healthcare.
Organizations and individuals have been ringing the alarm bells on the topic for months, noting Ford’s team’s plans for expanding independent for-profit clinics and hospitals, among other things.
Then there was the time in 2019 that the NDP obtained and leaked the Health System Efficiency Act, a bill drafted by the Progressive Conservatives that laid out a plan to replace Ontario’s Local Health Integration Networks with one blanket agency.
It’s something that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in a presser at the time showed “it’s very clear in this bill that the privatization of healthcare is [their] agenda,” though Health Minister Christine Elliott said that the opposition got “pretty much everything wrong” about the legislation.
As many are noting, the Canada Health Act exists to ensure “all eligible residents of Canadian provinces and territories have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services on a prepaid basis, without charges related to the provision of insured health services,” which could mean that any cuts Ford has made or is planning are in contravention of federal guidelines.
The province’s own website also clarifies that medically necessary diagnostic tests are an insured service and residents “cannot be charged any amount in order to receive this service.”
And yet, people have been sharing their personal stories across socials, stating that they’ve been charged nearly $100 for diagnostic blood tests at Gamma Dynacare and LifeLabs, neither of which replied with comment in time for publication.
One man shared that he paid $86 when he was sent two weeks ago for bloodwork to determine if he may have myeloma, a type of cancer. “The lab folks told me simply that those tests were no longer covered by the government,” he wrote on Twitter Monday.
The public is, obviously, extremely worried about what such potential changes would mean, as well as about some of Ford’s related moves: promoting for-profit ownership in long-term care and home care.
The personal anecdotes absolutely abound this week, and are unignorable due to their sheer number, even if the stakeholders have yet to verify what is going on.
People in the healthcare industry have also taken Ford to task on the subject, with some protesting or even storming the stageduring his campaign events to confront him for “privatizing our healthcare system.”
Amid all of the rumours, the Ontario Ministry of Health did confirm to outlets such as CityNews on Monday evening that the claims are simply not true.
“There have not been any changes to tests that are covered under the OHIP schedule of benefits-labratory services that may have led to a patient being charged,” the government wrote in a statement.
“The Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act prohibits charges by any person or entity for insured services or for access to insured services… insured patients can access medically necessary laboratory services at a hospital, community, or public health laboratory.”
They also noted that no lab tests haven been removed from the list of what is covered since 2017, though patients should be aware that there are “certain criteria” that need to be met for these services to be free.
According to the Ontario Health Coalition, a non-partisan public healthcare watchdog, “Health Coalitions across Ontario are holding Emergency Summits to build the biggest fight-back we have ever mounted… Our goal is to protect and improve our vital public health care services and stop the unprecedented for-profit privatization of health care.”
A release, penned before this latest testing drama, continues: “[We] intend to set the threat to our public health care as a key election issue and push all political parties to make commitments to safeguard public health care, stop privatization and address the urgent needs to improve care and staffing.”