On June 30, the provincial government, under Doug Ford’s leadership, altered the Ontario Health Insurance Plan so that children and young adults with private health benefits are now no longer able to access OHIP+, the program which offered free prescriptions to those under 25.
There is a lot to be said about the Progressive Conservative Party that was recently elected, and with the speed at which they are changing things, it feels almost silly to focus on one change. But the recent changes to our pharmacare challenges the autonomy people, especially young people, ought to have over their bodies.
If you are a McMaster undergraduate student, you are probably on the McMaster Students Union health plan. It should noted, right away, that the MSU health plan is a fairly comprehensive one, offering both vision and dental care, coverage for 80 per cent of the cost for a huge selection of prescription drugs and only costs $106.00 for the entire year.
This plan is a good one, but like most private insurance, it only benefits someone in relatively good health. If a person needs multiple medications, dental care and vision care, then they are forced to either pay for multiple medications, opt out and receive the medications they need through OHIP+, or be out of dental and vision care, two types of health young people already neglect on a regular basis. All of these three options require one to compromise on their health in some regard.
For many individuals, it takes some trial and error before they land on the correct prescription drug; this is particularly true for those seeking birth control or antidepressants. It takes birth control about three months to see how it affects one’s body, and six to twelve weeks before knowing if an antidepressant is working effectively.
With this in mind, it would be hard to convince someone who needs medication to spend money on drugs which may not help until they find the exact combination that alleviates their pain. Young people already self-medicate all the time, whether it be through other recreational drugs or through health supplements.
Being able to exist with effective pain management is one of the surefire ways to improve student life. It helps young people learn how to take care of their bodies and builds a healthy relationship based on nourishing their body when it hurts. No amount of money saved from ‘cutting corners’ is worth sacrificing a generation of young people with poor mental or physical health.
Young people should not have to do this sort of calculus when it comes to their health. Ideally, no one would have to. The PC government is presenting this change as cutting corners, but what it really does is limit one’s ability to successfully navigate medical care.
As we move forward through the next four years, it is imperative that we keep an eye on what the provincial government is doing and keep critiquing, keep fighting back. A lot of the cuts that are coming will seem innocuous, but mean cutting necessities for others.
To those entering the school year, consider the pros and cons of opting out of the MSU health plan. For those who advocate on behalf of the student union, it is worth tripling your efforts given the speed at which legislation is occurring. In the meantime, it may be time to reconsider purchasing another order health supplements before the flu season kicks in.