In earlier posts, I argued that the province should not implement policies that directly – and knowingly – make health disparities worse. Requiring new immigrants and others to wait three months for OHIP coverage is just such a policy. It has a damaging and inequitable impact on vulnerable people, damage that is entirely avoidable. The Ontario Medical Association has joined the large number of providers and community groups that call for this restriction to be removed.
Data presented last year at a research conference on health care for the undocumented and uninsured, in which Wellesley Institute partnered, confirmed a pattern long identified by front-line health-care providers: denying new immigrants access to OHIP coverage has significant impact on their health. People without health coverage delayed seeking treatment, increasing the danger of adverse outcomes and conditions worsening; when seeking care, they received differential and inequitable treatment within health-care institutions, and they had virtually no access to primary care and other services that promote health and prevent illness. These inequities are worse for women and their children: the medical danger of arriving at hospital giving birth without having received pre-natal care has been well established.
Unlike many policy problems, the solution here is relatively straight-forward. The government should follow expert and community advice — including Ontario doctors — and eliminate the three-month wait period.