Dear Premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Eric Hoskins,
We are a broad group of community members, health and social service providers, and we are concerned about the ongoing denial of healthcare to many of our fellow Ontarians. We call on the Ontario government to truly provide excellent care for all Ontarians, and extend the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) to cover all residents of Ontario.
In 2009, Duncan McCorkell was diagnosed with colon cancer while non-status, denied life-saving treatment, and subsequently died as a result of his illness in Toronto. In 2011, Maki Ueyama and her husband received a $22,000 bill after the premature birth of their twins during their three-month waiting period for OHIP as new immigrants. For the past five years, Adil Yousif was denied access to OHIP for treatment to save his legs from amputation while his humanitarian application was pending, despite working in Ontario and contributing taxes.
There are countless other stories: children who have been turned away from emergency rooms because parents could not pay cash upfront; pregnant women who have foregone prenatal care for fear of unpayable bills; and too many who have suffered and died as a result of being denied access to healthcare in Ontario.
In Canada, many believe we have a universal healthcare system. In reality, there are an estimated 500,000 people in Ontario who are denied healthcare coverage due to their immigration status.*
This includes new immigrants in the three-month waiting period, temporary foreign workers between contracts, some international students, non-status individuals pending response to various immigration claims, and even returning Canadian citizens who have left the country for a period of time.
Those without health insurance are active members of our communities: our neighbours, co-workers, friends, caregivers, farmers, and homebuilders. They make vibrant and vital contributions to Ontarian society, and yet are denied the basic human right to healthcare. When in need of health services, they often delay seeking care, leading to worsening medical conditions, and when they do access care, they are often denied services if they cannot provide cash up-front, and are left to languish or are saddled with large bills.
In response to this crisis, there has been a proliferation of clinics for the uninsured, many volunteer-run, in addition to community health centres who have some limited funds to serve this growing population. Though serving a crucial function with limited resources, these services are neither comprehensive nor sustainable solutions for providing quality and accessible healthcare.
Recently, we have seen Toronto and Hamilton declared sanctuary cities by their city councils. This means that all municipal services are accessible to all people regardless of immigration status. We want to see this for healthcare services at the provincial level, and that is why we are asking for OHIP for All. Covering everyone with OHIP would prevent avoidable downstream costs to the healthcare system, avoidable negative health outcomes for people in our communities, and stop the unfair denial of healthcare services to those Ontarians in need.
The Ontario government has shown its commitment to equitable access to healthcare in the past. When the federal government cut refugee healthcare in 2012, the Ontario government stepped in to fill the gap in health coverage. Similar to the refugee health cuts that were deemed “cruel and unusual” by the Federal Court, the ongoing denial of healthcare to uninsured residents of Ontario is unacceptable, unjust, and must also be corrected.
We call on you to fill the remaining gap in health coverage and leave no Ontarian behind. You can end the current patchwork of temporary solutions and denial of care now by providing OHIP for all residents of Ontario. Let’s build a truly universal healthcare system for our province.
We call on the Ontario Government to:
- End the OHIP three month waiting period for new immigrants, temporary foreign workers, migrants newly approved for Permanent Residency, and returning Canadians
- Provide OHIP coverage to those left uninsured with temporary status, including temporary foreign workers between contracts and international students
- Provide OHIP coverage to those left uninsured while inland immigration sponsorship, humanitarian, and compassionate status applications are pending.
- Provide OHIP coverage to those left uninsured due to being non-status while residing in Ontario.†
* Based on CIC 2014 statistics.
† This is excluding Medical Tourism.
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