$14 minimum wage, free pharmacare for young people, other Ontario regulatory changes start Jan. 1

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TheStar.com – News/Canada – Thousands of workers will also get an extra week of vacation, and notes for the boss are banned among a host of changes that take effect Jan. 1, with opposition parties accusing Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals of timing it all to their advantage for the June 7 vote.
Dec. 28, 2017.   By

The minimum wage is going up and the cost of prescription drugs is going down as 2018 — an election year — dawns in Ontario.

Thousands of workers will also get an extra week of vacation, and sick notes for the boss are banned among a host of changes that take effect Jan. 1, with opposition parties accusing Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals of timing it all to their advantage for the June 7 vote.

New Year’s Day sees the minimum wage surge $2.40 an hour to $14 and a new pharmacare plan — the first of its kind in Canada — called OHIP+ covering 4 million children, teens and young adults under 25.

They will get free access to 4,400 medications on the provincial formulary simply by presenting a health card and a valid prescription at any pharmacy.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is touting how the government is “helping people get free medications for their kids” and promising a $15 minimum wage in a year. “There are people right now who live in Ontario who are earning the minimum wage, $11.60 an hour, and they still have to go to the food bank,” Wynne says.

“If you’re working full-time you should be able to feed yourself and your family,” she adds, explaining the dramatic change that has some business groups warning the hike could lead to job cuts and higher prices.

“Making $15 an hour is great, but only if you have a job,” Karl Baldauf of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce cautioned before the increase was passed.

The new measures are among the biggest New Year goodies seen in years.

Opposition parties say that’s no coincidence given that the Liberals, who have rebounded in a recent poll to be in a dead heat with Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives, are seeking another term.

“The Liberals have always operated in their best interest,” says NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who slams the governing party for not acting sooner on her push to raise the minimum wage and phase it in more gradually to help businesses adjust.

“This should have been done years and years ago.”

Brown has pledged to slow the increase to $15 over a period of four years.

Other changes coming January 1 include:

Progressive Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London) warns parents that kids and teens, college and university students and young adults already in the workforce may not be able to get the same medications they’re used to under OHIP+ if they are fortunate enough to have other coverage.

“The Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) plan covers fewer drugs than private insurance companies,” notes Yurek, a pharmacist himself.

“They might get surprises when they go for a refill of a prescription that’s not covered. Doctors and pharmacists will be scrambling to find alternatives.”

Liberals counter that people with private plans can still get those medications, although they may have co-payment costs or deductibles, while families without drug insurance coverage will save money on every prescription.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins calls OHIP+ “the biggest advancement of medicare in this province in generations” and says patients wondering if their particular medications are covered can check at the Ontario government site, under medication coverage.

“It’s important to stress that OHIP+ will cover every single drug on Ontario’s formulary: asthma inhalers, EpiPens, diabetes test strips, oral contraceptives, cancer drugs and drugs for rare diseases,” he adds.

“Diabetes test strips and insulin for low-income families struggling to pay the bills every week will save them thousands of dollars each year.”

Other medications under OHIP+ include antibiotics for infections, antidepressants, mental health drugs and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs.

Pharmacies will be reimbursed by the government for the cost of dispensing and providing the drugs. Doctors and nurse practitioners are being urged to check the ODB formulary before prescribing medications, to make sure patients without private drug plans can get the medicines they need free of charge.

 

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 29th, 2017 at 6:06 pm and is filed under Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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