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Liberals offer new drug and dental coverage for Ontarians without health plans, Toronto Star, March 28, 2018

Posted: March 29, 2018

(March 28, 2018)

By: Rob Ferguson, Toronto Star

Ontarians lacking workplace health insurance will get up to $700 a year to defray the cost of medicines and dentist visits starting in summer 2019 under the Wynne government’s pre-election budget.

Augmenting a new OHIP+ pharmacare plan and the existing Healthy Smiles aid for needy families, the promised Ontario Drug and Dental Program would reimburse 80 per cent of eligible prescription drug and dental expenses, Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Wednesday.

But there are annual maximum payouts of $400 for singles, $600 for couples and $700 for a family of four with two children, prompting the Ontario Dental Association to warn the program “does not take meaningful action for kids from low-income families” given that $121 million in annual funding for Healthy Smiles is not keeping up with demand.

“The caps are so low,” added Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition. “It looks like what they tried to do is the cheapest version that was possible.”

The drug and dental plan — in the wake of a $1.2 billion NDP denticare proposal unveiled two weeks ago — comes with a price tag of $500 million annually to the provincial treasury, contributing to annual government deficits forecast until 2025.

“One in four people of working age in Ontario does not have access to an extended health benefits plan,” Sousa said in his budget speech, which placed heavy emphasis on Liberal pledges to make life more “affordable” with an election coming June 7.

“Their kids may not have the dental care they require … families forgo medicines they find too expensive to buy.”

Details of the program, one of the few surprises in a budget largely telegraphed in advance, are yet to be worked out.

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