Ontario Budget – The good, the bad, and the ugly

The Ontario government released its provincial budget on February 25, 2016, bringing a mix of good and bad news for older Ontarians.

The Good

The Ontario government is addressing the needs of aging residents, specifically the need for more home and community-based care; supports for those with dementia and other neurological conditions; end-of-life care and adult vaccination.

CARP has long called for more home and community care, which will help people age at home and in their communities while achieving savings for the healthcare system. As a result, CARP welcomed the government’s commitment to increase the funding for home and community care by 5%, compared to the overall increase for health of only 2%. The government also introduced $155 million towards end-of-life care to fund more hospices and palliative care. In addition, the government committed $10 million annually to Behavioural Supports Ontario, starting in 2016-2017, to help Ontarians with dementia and other complex behavioural and neurological conditions.

CARP also welcomed the government’s action on adult vaccination. Older Ontarians between the age of 65 and 70 will be eligible to receive the shingles vaccine, free of charge. The vaccine will help older Ontarians remain healthy, reducing the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

The Bad

CARP was disappointed with the proposed changes to the Ontario Drug Benefit program for seniors, which will increase the out-of-pocket costs for many residents who are 65 and older.

Changes to the Ontario Drug Benefit program will have a disproportional negative impact on some seniors. The income threshold for the low-income seniors’ benefits will be increased from $16,018 to $19,300 for single seniors and from $24,175 to $32,300 for senior couples. Low-income seniors under these income thresholds will continue to pay a $2 co-payment per prescription with no annual deductible. All other seniors will pay an increased annual deductible – from $100 to $170 – and an increased co-payment from $6.11 to $7.11 per prescription.

While CARP welcomed the increased low-income threshold to include more low-income seniors, CARP expressed concern over the increased deductible and co-paymentfor those with incomes just above the thresholds.

CARP’s Victory

Just  days after the budget was released, CARP claimed victory as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the government would reconsider the proposed changes to the Ontario Drug Benefit program and would consult with Ontarians.

The government is welcoming feedback and comments from the public regarding its proposed changes to the Ontario Drug Benefit program by March 31, 2016. To provide feedback/comments:

  1. Go to: http://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=21062&language=en
  2. Click on the “Comment on this proposal via email” found at the bottom of the page.

    Read CARP’s news release in response to the Ontario budget
    Read more about CARP’s recent work on pharmacare 
    Read the Ontario 2016 Budget