by REBECCA SOARES
For many, the new OHIP+ program seems to be a blessing with few downsides. However, according to pharmacists in the region, this isn’t necessarily the case. “At first glance it seems like a great idea for most people, but when you look into it, most people 24 and under are covered under their parents’ health benefits,” said Ayman Labib, pharmacist at Lang’s Medical Pharmacy.
“The parents are paying to keep them under the health plan that their kids can no longer use. All medications are forced to go through government coverage first and the plans will refuse to pay unless it’s not covered by the government. It’s a difficult system that creates a struggle for parents.”
The struggle doesn’t end there either. Certain medications require a specific code from the doctor in order for the medication to be covered by the government.
“Private insurances don’t require any code to cover medications so parents and young adults are suddenly told this by pharmacies when they try to fill their medications. It wouldn’t be an issue but they weren’t told, so they come to get their medications because they’ve run out and they have to wait even longer because now we have to get ahold of their doctors. It’s creating a lot of headaches. It would be worth it if these people 24 and under really needed this plan but they don’t. The majority of those eligible for OHIP+ don’t need it,” said Labib.
However, it’s not just a matter of those 24 and under are already covered. Pharmacist Ben Atekha at Food Basics pharmacy believes individuals with dire health needs would be better suited for medications covered by the government.
“When you’re that age, 24 or younger, most people are the healthiest they’ve ever been. The notion of the government being willing to help assist those is a good idea, it would just be more effective for those who really need it. They’re putting money into something people don’t need. They should be focusing on those who require life maintenance medications like diabetics. There’s rarely an issue of coverage for those 24 and under, it’s a bigger issue for people from ages 25-64. When you’re 65 and over, you get coverage and that’s beneficial. But to be giving healthy people this opportunity is just an attempt to make the government look good, while people who have to manage their life with medications are still struggling,” said Atekha.
Individuals between the ages of 25-64 aren’t assisted by any government plan, and if their work doesn’t have any health benefits it can be difficult for them to come up with the money to pay for necessary medications.
“There’s better things that can be done. It is like giving someone a book they already have as a gift. They’ll take it but they don’t need it,” said Labib.