The 3 month wait for OHIP saves nothing.

January, 2014 —   Your money or your life. (amended)

Besides straining the legitimate bounds of Canada’s humanitarian credibility, the 3 month wait for Ontario Health Insurance (OHIP) for landed immigrants and returning Canadians likely saves no one a penny. It certainly can cost many their health, their ability to live a productive life in Canada and contribute.  and it can prove deadly.

He came to Canada at age 3. He had no say in that. His parents arrived as landed immigrants. They were leaving poverty and violence far behind. They came (as others do) to succeed, to raise their child and family in Canada’s stability and safety. After 6 years working and living here, and becoming a Canadian citizens, they returned home. The Great Recession of 2008 dried up jobs. They were not alone.

In 2013, now 16, back in his birth country, he was diagnosed with a rare and deadly genetic disorder. New effective treatments have been discovered. He will die without them. They are not available in his country. They are available in Canada. He is a Canadian citizen.

His disease can progress quickly. His was. It causes advanced neurological deficits – inability to speak, inability to walk, to lift a fork to eat. It damages the liver and other organs.

The boy returned to Canada, to Ontario specifically, with his mother so he would not die. Sadly, he was denied treatment once here. As a returning Canadian away more than 212 days he found himself caught up in the 3 month wait for OHIP. His father stayed behind in Asia. he had a job. It paid the money his wife and son needed for travel and living expenses in Canada.

Our/their phone calls to OHIP officials, and others within the Ministry of Health fell on deaf ears. The life threatening emergency nature of his disease made no impact. There were no avenues for compassionate discretion. There was no accommodation to relax the rules to save his life. All bended knee and passionate requests for humanitarian consideration to obtain treatment and save his life were humiliatingly dismissed.

A 16 year old Canadian youth was dying before our eyes. Only the generosity of volunteer free medical care — most importantly from paediatricians, saved his life.

What do Children and Youth new to Canada know about 3 month waits arbitrarily imposed by adults who govern and ( supposedly protect them? If you or I harmed a youth we would be charged. If we neglect and cause harm to a child, we would be charged. When I was 13 I became ill with a deadly disease. I remember being sick, and very frightened. I trusted the adults in my life. I trusted they would help me. They did.

This youth’s story has one final twist. Some of his treatment had to be administered in hospital (much of it was done as an outpatient, for free, in the community, saving the Government and taxpayers many thousands of dollars). OHIP declined to cover the $18,000 for that hospital stay. That bill cannot be afforded by by mother. It will sit on the public hospital’s financial sheet.

A few will say ( because we have heard it)  ” it’s not my problem. It serves them right. They left Canada. Follow the rules”. To them we say the current costs to OHIP to ensure a 16 year old for 3 months, is $25. That would save a life, and everyone else $18,000. Most will say ( because we have heard it) “ How can this happen to a youth, a Canadian, in Canada? This is an Ontario and a Canada I no longer recognize?” To them we say, we agree.

Incredulity at the humanitarian hypocrisy and insensitivity best describes our visceral reaction. Why are we costing ourselves such unnecessary expense describes our intellectual reaction.

So, solutions….

In January 2014 Ontario rightly took on health coverage for refugee claimants cut off by the Federal government in 2012. Ontario went a step further – and this is where the first steps of solution lie. Although Ontario applied its same 3 month wait to its new coverage for refugee claimants, Ontario added a paradigm policy shift. The 3 month wait for care is waived for refugee claimants who are pregnant, children and youth 18 and under, and anyone else deemed to have a life threatening emergency, the 3 month wait is waived – at the discretion of the treating physician. So, and the question is obvious, why not do the same for returning Canadians, particularly Children and Youth including those New to Canada when they are risk of death from illness or injury while in the 3 month wait?

Canada is country whose very prosperity and freedoms have been built and defended by the new arrivals that define every generation – since the first. Our is no different. We are a nation of new arrivals, a compilation of 500 years of newcomer fusion. We should start acting like it when newcomers to Canada suffer medical emergencies.


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