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Pharmacy groups hail expanded free Rx plan in Ontario

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OHIP+ program now eliminates deductible, co-pay for seniors

TORONTO — Canadian pharmacy organizations lauded the Ontario government’s expansion of its OHIP+ free prescriptions plan to seniors in the province.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne yesterday announced that, starting Aug. 1, 2019, OHIP+ would make more than 4,400 prescription drugs available at no charge to people ages 65 and older. Previously, the program required seniors to pay a $100 annual deductible and a co-pay per prescription.

Ontario introduced OHIP+ Children and Youth Pharmacare at the start of 2018. The program made thousands of prescription drugs free for everyone age 24 and younger and marked the largest expansion of medicare in a generation, the province said.

“Ontario’s pharmacy professionals are the stewards of OHIP+. OPA supports the government’s decision to invest in more care for seniors and provide them with the same health care benefits as youth,” Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) chief executive officer Andrew Gall said in a statement.

The Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada (Neighbourhood Pharmacies) noted that the OHIP+ expansion could potentially make prescription drugs more affordable for over 2.6 million seniors and their families by eliminating co-payments and deductibles.

What’s more, the association said better access to medications can help improve health outcomes for seniors, alleviate disability-related symptoms, replace more invasive surgical procedures,and reduce hospitalization rates.

“We have heard from Ontario seniors daily in our community pharmacies, since the introduction of OHIP+, about their desire to have the same benefits as youth,” stated Neighbourhood Pharmacies CEO Justin Bates. “This announcement couldn’t come soon enough, especially for those on fixed incomes, and we believe that seniors will benefit immediately when this policy is implemented.”

The Ontario government estimated that by expanding OHIP+ to seniors in its 2018 budget, people ages 65 and older will now save an average of $240 every year. Prescription drugs covered by the program include medications for cholesterol, hypertension, thyroid conditions, diabetes and asthma.

“This is a positive step in the right direction,” commented Ontario Pharmacists Association chairman Mike Cavanagh. “OPA supports any initiative that aims to increase patient access to the medications they need to live healthier lives.”

OPA noted that in Ontario, which has over 15,000 pharmacists and more than 4,500 pharmacies, pharmacists are the most accessible health professionals and often a patient’s first point of contact with a health care provider. With the expansion of OHIP+, pharmacists will be able to better focus on caring for their seniors, rather than worrying about the financial impact of medication on some of their most vulnerable patients, the association added.

“Working on the front lines, pharmacy professionals are key catalysts in our health care system,” Cavanagh stated, “and our seniors deserve the very best care and support we can provide. We have the knowledge and skills to do more for all of our patients — including seniors.”


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