The 2018 Ontario Budget tabled by Finance Minister Charles Sousa acknowledges the precarious situation of many working-aged Ontarians without insurance to cover drug and dental costs, but the proposed Ontario Drug and Dental Program must ensure the people who need it the most are able to access the benefits.
“Ontarians with diabetes may face out-of-pocket costs anywhere from hundreds of dollars to several thousand, especially if they require multiple daily injections of insulin or use technology such as continuous glucose monitoring systems,” says Dr. Jan Hux, president of Diabetes Canada.
“The proposed Ontario Drug and Dental Program has the potential to alleviate some of those costs for uninsured working-aged adults, but only if people are able to afford the up-front costs of their medication or the 20 per cent co-payment. If not, the program’s benefits may remain out of reach for the people who need assistance the most,” says Dr. Hux.
For many people with diabetes, adherence to treatment is affected by cost. Ontarians with type 1 diabetes who use multiple daily injections typically spend out-of-pocket between $1,100 to $2,300 a year for their treatment. People on insulin pump therapy spend between $500 to $1,700 a year, while people with type 2 diabetes on oral medication may spend between $200 to $1,900 annually.
“For someone earning minimum wage or slightly more, $400 in coverage for both dental and prescription medications is not enough to cover basic health needs – for essential, life-saving medications,” says Dr. Hux. “And that’s if they are able to first access the benefit by affording the co-payment.”
Being unable to afford and therefore follow prescribed diabetes therapy increases the risk people face for developing costly and life-threatening diabetes-related complications, such as heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and depression.
An estimated 1 in 3 Ontarians live with diabetes or prediabetes – approximately 4.3 million people. The number of people with diabetes and prediabetes is expected to rise by 30 per cent over the next 10 years, with the cost to the health care system increasing from $1.5 billion to $1.9 billion.