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Income Security and the Ontario Election #3

May 6, 2018 Poverty Reduction

Community Legal Clinics are mandated to do Public Legal Education and Law Reform Work.

In that context, elections provide a unique opportunity to discuss issues important to our community and clients.

One such area is social assistance.

We’d like to see informed debate on social assistance.in this year’s provincial election. 

To that end, we will be running a series of questions and backgrounders on our website.  Today is the third story. 

We’d like to understand where all the parties and candidates stand on these issues.

The materials have been prepared by the Income Security and Advocacy Centre. The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) is a community legal clinic established in 2001. and funded by Legal Aid Ontario. ISAC has a provincial mandate to advance the systemic interests and rights of low-income Ontarians around income security programs and low-wage precarious employment.  Find out more about ISAC at http://incomesecurity.org/

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Health Benefits for all Low Income people

 

Question 3: How will your party ensure that all low-income Ontarians have accessible, high-quality health benefits for themselves and their families?

Background:

  • Fewer and fewer Ontarians get benefits from their employers, so more people go without prescription drug, dental, and vision coverage. A 2015 study by the Wellesley Institute showed that 1/3 of workers in Ontario do not receive employer-paid benefits. Because jobs without benefits are often low-paid, these workers are unable to afford to pay these expenses on their own.
  • The Wellesley Institute report indicates that certain groups of people are more impacted by the lack of employer-paid benefits – like women, single parents, racialized groups, new immigrations, temporary foreign workers, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, older adults, and youth – because they are more likely to have to rely on precarious, low-paid jobs. The issue of the differential impact of precarious work on certain groups is highlighted in many reports, including a 2017 report from the Law Commission of Ontario.
  • A recent UBC-led study said that 1.6 million Canadians don’t fill prescriptions or skip doses – or fail to take medication at all – because they can’t afford to pay for it.
  • A recent Public Health Ontario study found that one in every five Ontarians does not visit a dentist because they can’t afford it. Many go to hospital emergency rooms, but they don’t get dental treatment there – only pain killers. In 2014, there were almost 61,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms for dental problems.
  • People on social assistance get prescription drug coverage and limited dental and vision care. All low-income children get OHIP+ prescription drug coverage and Healthy Smiles Ontario dental coverage. But these programs need to be improved. Adults receiving Ontario Works (OW) can only access emergency services, not basic dental care. Some dentists are known to deny treatment to adults receiving Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits and children on Healthy Smiles because they feel the government’s fee schedule is too low.
  • Seniors have prescription Ontario Drug Benefit coverage but must pay a co-payment when prescriptions are filled and/or pay for their own prescriptions up to a deductible amount that depends on income and age. They are eligible only for one routine eye exam per year through OHIP and get no coverage for glasses, contact lenses, low vision aids, or vision therapy. They have no access to public dental coverage.
  • All Ontarians deserve benefits that will contribute to their health and quality of life.

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