Kathleen Wynne promises free prescription drugs for seniors

Wynne curls with Leasiders, says OHIP+ will cover people 65 and older

Kathleen Wynne curling
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne glides along the ice at the Leaside Curling Club, where she announced people aged 65 and above would receive free prescription drugs. Paivi Liitela, the club's general manager, said Wynne "knows how to throw a rock." Bobby Hristova/Toronto Observer

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne chose the Leaside Curling Club to make a special announcement affecting all Ontario seniors.

After curling with Leaside seniors on Tuesday, she announced that anyone aged 65 and older will receive free prescription medicine starting August 2019 as an extension to OHIP+.

“If we don’t make these investments now, we will pay a price down the road,” Wynne told reporters. “Our parents, our grandparents… people who built Ontario have told us they want to live independently for as long as possible… that’s something we need to support.”

Wynne said the plan will remove the current deductibles and co-payments under the Ontario Drug Benefit program while maintaining access to all 4,400-plus drugs.

The expansion will save people an average of $240 per year. The province will invest $575 million in the program by 2020-21.

To pay for this, Wynne plans to operate on a “modest deficit, less than one per cent of GDP.”

Dipika Damerla, the Minister of Seniors Affairs, said although people consider healthcare when thinking of seniors, they dismiss affordability.

“Affordability when you’re on a fixed income can be an issue… we don’t want seniors to ever have to worry that they may have to choose or ration their medications,” Dipika said in an interview.

Cathy Windross, 65, called Wynne’s promise a “good thing.”

“There’s a need… I went through it with my mother, and we could’ve had more help,” she said.

The competition

Doug Ford, the leader of Ontario’s PC party, wants to improve hospital wait times.

Andrea Horwath, leading the Ontario NDP, proposed province-wide dental benefits and a separate ministry for mental health and addiction services.

Mike Schreiner, heading the Green party, wants to make nurse-led clinics  the primary mode of health care in rural areas of Ontario.

But Andrew D. Gall, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, wonders why seniors are being forced to wait.

“Why do we have to wait 18 months? Why can’t we make this sooner? It’s teasing people,” Gall said.

He argues that the turnaround for the original OHIP+ plan was much shorter.

Ontario announced OHIP+ on April 27 and implemented it on Jan. 1, providing the same benefits for anyone 25 and younger.

If re-elected June 7, Wynne hopes to create a national pharmacare program to cover people 25-65.

“The reality is that there is still more to do,” Wynne said. “It’s going to mean one less thing people have to worry about and it’s going to deliver real savings to help manage the rising cost of living.”

Who will be Ontario’s next premier?

Kathleen Wynne | Liberal Party
Doug Ford | Progressive Conservative Party
Andrea Horwath | New Democratic Party
Mike Schreiner | Green Party

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Posted: Mar 22 2018 12:05 pm
Filed under: News