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Speakers Corner: Questions raised over OHIP card renewal policy

Posted: February 18, 2022

(Feb 16, 2022)

By: Pat Taney, Toronto City News

You may have heard the news last week, people with disabilities who can’t get a drivers license are no longer required to renew their OHIP cards in person. But another group of people say they aren’t being given the same leniency. Mainly those who fall into one specific age group.

When it comes to OHIP card renewals, most of his can do it online. But 75-year-old Bill Mack — who recently had a stroke, cannot.

“I have no choice, do I?”

Nope. He doesn’t. Anyone, without a medical exemption, between the ages of 75 and 80 still must physically walk into a Service Ontario to renew their cards.

“You know, I just think it’s unjustifiable at this time. It’s actually dangerous,” said Natalie Mehra , the Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

“Having people in that age group to go and stand in line at Service Ontario and wait for their health care renewal doesn’t make any sense,” she said.

For Mehra, COVID exposure is a main concern. While the Ministry of Health recently delayed renewal requirements for anyone until September, Mehra says that’s not enough.

“Many of them will not get word that they don’t have to renew until September and will unnecessarily go out into a public area where they’re at risk of catching Omicron and potentially getting very sick or dying.”

But even if COVID wasn’t a concern, Mehra says this policy is still wrong.

“Some people in this population may have mobility issues,” she said. “It just doesn’t make any sense. Someone is not thinking at the Ministry of Health.”

CityNews reached out to the Ministry and we were told people in this age group are required to come in so a new photograph and signature can be captured.

“It’s also to ensure original documents are shown to support continued entitlement,” spokesperson W.D. Lighthall said.

“The reason why the government has brought in this thing of getting renewed photos is people were committing fraud in some small numbers with the health cards,” Mehra responded. “This is an elderly group. Do we really need photos every five years at that point? Not necessarily so.”

Mehra wasn’t aware of the issue until CityNews brought it to her.

“In response, we will phone officials at the Ministry of Health and we’ll also phone the political side and ask them to review this. Good for CityNews for doing this story because this kind of pressure is very likely to win change.”

Whether that happens remains to be seen. In the meantime, Lighthall said anyone in this age group who cannot physically make it into a Service Ontario can file for a medical exemption.

“That’s just an added step, I feel this can be avoided by just allowing these people to renew online or by mail,” Mehra said.

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