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Health insurance for travellers: Ontario government backpedals

par Aurélia Morvan | August 14 2019 01:30PM

The patients’ and the opposition’s concerns have been heard. The Ontario government had announced in April that it would stop covering medical costs of Ontarians who travelled outside Canada. Now, some Ontarians are spared.

The government reversed its policy by announcing that Ontarians with chronic kidney disease who require regular treatment by hemodialysis would continue to be covered by the province if they need to travel outside the country.

A program with a dedicated budget

“Once we introduced our proposal to wind down the Out-of-Country Travellers Program, we heard from dialysis stakeholders and patients that it is difficult and prohibitively expensive for Ontarians receiving dialysis treatments to obtain health travel insurance,” Travis Kann, spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott told Insurance Journal

In response to the outcry, the Ontario government is launching a new program with a $700,000 annual budget, to be managed by the Ontario Renal Network.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, dialysis patients can receive “the same reimbursement rates as currently provided through existing programs,” which amounts to $210 per dialysis treatment received out of country.

“Victory” for patients

“When the Ontario government announced that it was eliminating coverage of dialysis treatment received by Ontarians abroad, we asked the members of our community to speak up, to share the stories and to make themselves heard by the elected representatives,” Shannon Fogarasi, Director of Programs & Public Policy, The Kidney Foundation of Canada, told Insurance Journal

“They were to raise the awareness of the provincial MPPs and of other stakeholders across Ontario of the challenges experienced by residents with chronic kidney failure and their families. Thanks to their success, we can celebrate this victory today,” she said.

Insurance industry gets more time 

The launch of the new program for dialysis patients coincides with the wind-down of the Out-of-Country Travellers Program, Kann says, namely Jan. 1, 2020. In fact, the Out-of-Country Travellers Program was initially slated to end on Oct. 1, 2019.

Asked to explain the extension, Minister Elliott’s spokesperson says that one of the government’s goals was to “ensure sufficient time for a seamless transition between the old and new systems.”

“But we also heard from the insurance industry that they needed more time to adjust their plans and prepare for the wind-down of the program that covers all Ontarians who travel outside of Canada,” he adds.

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