Ontario government rolls out OHIP+ program

As of Jan. 1, over 4,400 prescriptions were made free and available to all Ontario youth that are under the age of 24 and covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

The program, called OHIP+, is the first of its kind in Canada, and will cost taxpayers approximately $465 million annually, according to the Ontario government website. 

All children and youth who are already covered by OHIP, will automatically be covered under the program OHIP+, and coverage will cease on the individual’s 25th birthday, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health website.

OHIP+ will cover medication that is currently available through the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program, such as oral contraceptives, antibiotics, inhalers for asthma, antidepressants, epilepsy drugs, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs, various insulins, oral diabetic medications, EpiPens, and several drugs to treat childhood cancers and other rare conditions.

Individuals simply need to present their pharmacists with their Ontario health card number and a valid prescription in order to have 100 per cent of the costs covered.

Shelly Bardai, a pharmacist at Toronto General Hospital, explained that not every medication is covered under OHIP+ and that brand name medications are not covered either; only the generic brand.

She further explained that every single prescription first has to go through OHIP and then through private insurances if the patient or their parents have it.

“For example, when I go to get prescriptions for my daughters, even though their father has insurance and I have insurance, it has to go through OHIP first,” Bardai said. “I think it’s a good thing for people who don’t have insurance and have to pay out of pocket for their prescriptions.”

Students who attend university out of province, will still be eligible for coverage under OHIP+ as long as they are insured under OHIP, have a valid prescription, and obtain their medication from a pharmacy within Ontario, according to the Ontario government’s website.

Zameer Masjedee, Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) president, said the OHIP+ program will benefit students in many ways.

He said now that the government is covering the costs of prescription drugs, the money that was spent on the university’s student drug plan can be reallocated to other parts of the plan such as dental, vision, and counselling services.

CUSA’s student drug plan, which is administered by Studentcare, covers 80 per cent of the cost of eligible prescription drugs and vaccinations, up to $2,000 per policy year and is optional; however, there is a $5 dispensing fee per prescription, refill or vaccination, according to the Studentcare website.

Students are automatically eligible for the Student Drug Plan when they are enrolled in at least four classes each semester. The plan covers most medications legally requiring a prescription, however certain drugs may require prior approval.

Alicia Murray, a first-year student at Carleton originally from Victoria, B.C., said back home, she is not aware of a program in place like OHIP+.

She said she is covered under her parents’ insurance until the age of 25.

“I’ve had to pay for prescriptions, only part of it gets covered most of the time so this [OHIP+] sounds really good compared to what I have,” Murray said. 

Photo by Trevor Swann