END THE 3-MONTH WAIT FOR OHIP: ONTARIO'S DOCTORS

TORONTO, April 20 /CNW/ - In Ontario, landed immigrants and many returning Canadians are subject to a three-month waiting period for OHIP health insurance coverage. Ontario's doctors are calling on the government to remove the delay so patients can access care when they need it.

Under the current rules, many immigrants and returning Canadians forego seeking medical care, which can be dangerous to them and, in the case of infectious diseases, to others they are in contact with.

"The 3-month wait for OHIP can be bad for a patient's health, the community and makes it harder for the system to properly care for patients," said Dr. Mark MacLeod, President of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).  "Immediate OHIP coverage ensures that patients seek the care they need, when they need it."

Those that do seek medical care are forced to go to the hospital emergency department where they know they will not be turned away. Emergency Physicians often treat uninsured patients for on-going, non-emergency illnesses and minor health concerns that would be much more efficiently managed in a primary care setting.  Physicians also regularly treat patients in the emergency department with unmanaged chronic illness, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, but who had not been previously assessed and were not being treated because they did not have access to care.

Although the 3-month wait was initially introduced as a cost-saving measure, the OMA has found no evidence to suggest that OHIP costs would increase if it was removed. In fact, according to a paper entitled New Approaches to Immigrant Health Assessment, published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, this delay in obtaining health coverage appears to cause a spike in billings once coverage is obtained, suggesting that many new immigrants simply save up their doctors' visits until the 3-month wait is over, delaying but not reducing OHIP billings.

"There is no health benefit to waiting to provide insurance until after three months are up," said Dr. MacLeod. "Whether a person has an infectious disease, an urgent health event, an accident, or a chronic illness, the best possible outcomes will be achieved when the person seeks medical care as quickly as possible."

Six provinces and territories, including Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories, already provide immediate full provincial health insurance coverage to new immigrants upon establishing residence and to returning Canadians.

SOURCE Ontario Medical Association

For further information:

Please contact OMA Media Relations
1-800-268-7215 ext 2862 or 416-340-2862


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