Neighbourhood Legal Services and the Health Justice Program are profoundly disappointed that the Ontario Government plans to end a vital program that provides OHIP coverage to uninsured people living in Ontario. This program successfully improves health outcomes and reduces financial hardship for many people who need hospital-based services.
This cancellation announcement came without notice and is set to come into effect on March 31, 2023. Cancelling this program will harm the most marginalized Ontarians, disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities, as well as people living with disabilities.
There are many reasons Ontarians may not have an OHIP card: they may be unhoused and lose their identification; leave a violent home with no belongings; struggle with addiction issues; or are elderly and unable to take care of themselves let alone renew their OHIP card. They may also be on temporary work or study permits, or without authorized immigration status, living and working in Ontario for years.
People with severe health conditions should not have to wait until it is too late to seek care because they are afraid that they will be rejected, saddled with mounting debt, or stuck in costly red tape to replace their identification. As a team of legal and healthcare workers, we understand that nobody is served by imposing bureaucratic, legal and financial barriers to accessing necessary medical treatment. Cancelling this program will only push people’s health conditions downstream, requiring more intensive and expensive emergency care. Access to healthcare saves lives and prevents health complications and suffering.
The pandemic showed us what is possible when we prioritize the health needs of the entire population, and commit to not leaving anybody behind. Our communities were able to access necessary treatment without fear, allowing them to work, live and learn in comfort and dignity. We urge the provincial government to save lives by ensuring continued access to healthcare for uninsured people living in Ontario.
We also encourage members of the public to send a message to the Premier and to their MPP through Healthcare4All’s website here, and to read about the need to maintain this program and the devastating impact that cuts to this program will have.
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