A universal health care system
In Canada we believe we have a universal health care system. And yet, there are an estimated 500,000* people who do not have access to healthcare coverage. They are our neighbours, they work in our communities, and our children go to school together. What happens when they get sick?
Pregnant women have foregone prenatal care, children have been turned away from emergency care, and people have been denied life-saving surgery and cancer treatment. For those that do access care, hospital bills can lead to crippling debt. These are the dangerous and devastating consequences of denying people in our communities OHIP.
Why OHIP for ALL?
Many Ontarians have difficulty accessing health care when they are sick because they don’t have OHIP. Both patients and healthcare providers know how devastating this can be, and some efforts have been made to address this important problem.
On the front lines, there are several volunteer-driven clinics that have been created to provide healthcare for people without OHIP, and Community Health Centres have been able to use some limited funds to take on uninsured patients.
Others have tried to change the policies that prevent these patients from accessing health care. For example, the Right to Healthcare Coalition campaigned to end the OHIP 3-month wait period for new immigrants with the support of the Ontario Medical Association. In Toronto, the Uninsured Network brought together hospitals, the local health authority, academics, and community organizations to discuss research and policy solutions. The Sanctuary City movements in Toronto and Hamilton successfully established the right of all residents to access city services regardless of immigration status.
There are many examples from other high-income countries around the world that are doing better than Canada at providing healthcare coverage for some of the most vulnerable. In Spain, undocumented people have access to to free primary health care, helping reduce the need for emergent care. In Sweden, undocumented children have full access to health care, while since 2013 adults have the right to subsidized care for conditions that require urgent medical attention. Several other European countries provide some health care access to those without immigration status, such as France and the Netherlands, although in each case the coverage is not universal, and various barriers persist.
One of the most encouraging developments in Canada was the widespread mobilization by health care providers, refugees, and allies from 2012-2016 after the Conservative government made drastic cuts to Canada’s refugee health care program. These cuts were eventually overturned by the federal court who deemed them “cruel and unusual,” and reversed by the Liberal Government on April 1st, 2016.
We believe that every person has a human right to health care. The time is now for a comprehensive policy solution that will provide OHIP for All.
Therefore, we are mobilizing as concerned health care providers, community organizations and community members and calling for a clear and comprehensive policy change by the Ontario Government:
- To end the 3 month waiting period that prevents new immigrants, temporary foreign workers, and returning Canadians from accessing OHIP.
- To provide OHIP coverage to those with temporary residency status, such as temporary foreign workers between contracts, and international students.
- To provide OHIP coverage for those with pending inland immigration sponsorship, and humanitarian and compassionate applications.
- To provide OHIP coverage for other non-status individuals residing in Ontario.