Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press Explains the Ontario Budget's Health Care Funding

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press Explains the Ontario Budget's Health Care Funding

Article excerpt

CP Explains:Ontario budget health measures

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TORONTO - After years of restricting health-care funding growth, the Ontario budget released Thursday promises new money to reduce wait times and increase capacity at overcrowded hospitals, as well as free prescription medication for children and youth.

"BOOSTER SHOT"

The budget promises to increase health-care spending by a total of $11.5 billion over the next three years. The government had previously intended to keep annual health-spending increases low during this time, and the new so-called "booster shot" of funding is $7 billion higher than the previous plan.

Of that $7 billion, $1 billion is coming this budget year. Ontario will spend $53.8 billion on health care this year, up from $52.2 billion last year. Spending will rise to $58.1 billion in 2019-20, according to the budget plan.

This comes after the province's Financial Accountability Office warned that if the government continued with its plan to restrain health-care funding -- without the booster shot -- the level of austerity would have been the strictest in 20 years, and possibly unsustainable in the face of a growing and aging population.

The budget indicates $1.3 billion of the new funding will be dedicated to reducing wait times over the next three years.

OHIP+ CHILDREN AND YOUTH PHARMACARE

The biggest surprise policy announcement of the budget is free prescription medication for Ontarians under age 25. The pharmacare program will cover medication for all of the province's four million children, regardless of their family's income. It will be most beneficial for families that don't have work drug plans and aren't on social assistance.

It will cover the 4,400-plus drugs included in the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, which is used by seniors and those on social assistance. However, children's caregivers will not have to pay the deductibles and co-pay costs that those groups pay.

The program will cover common childhood medications including antibiotics, asthma inhalers, diabetes medication, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder medication. It also includes oral cancer medication, while hospital-based medication is already free in Ontario. …

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