Higher-income seniors would begin to pay more of their own prescription drug costs in 2014 under the latest provincial budget.
The Ontario Liberal government wants the five per cent of seniors with the highest incomes to pay higher deductibles under the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program. As proposed in last month’s provincial budget, high-income seniors would pay a greater share of their drug costs starting August 2014.
The ODB program helps seniors with the cost of prescription drugs. All seniors are eligible for the ODB regardless of income level.
Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals insist the changes would make the system fairer by making sure those with a greater ability to pay are not getting the same benefits as someone living on a much smaller income.
For single seniors with income of more than $100,000 the deductible will be $100 plus three per cent of net income over $100,000. Senior couples with a combined income of more than $160,000 will pay a $200 deductible plus three per cent of their family net income over $160,000.
Drug costs for seniors below these net income levels would remain the same.
The government expects this new income-tested deductible will mean five per cent of seniors would pay more, about three per cent would pay less and 92 per cent of seniors would pay the same deductible they are currently paying.
This measure would save an estimated $30 million in 2014/2015 and help the government better support an aging population through a new Seniors Strategy that includes expanding house calls, increasing access to home care, and providing improved coordination between hospitals, primary and community care, the Liberals said.
“Our government is making the right choice to ask the wealthiest five per cent of seniors to pay more for their prescription drugs,” said Health Minister Deb Matthews. “This change will help us to invest in better health care in the community for our seniors and ensure the long-term sustainability of our health care system.”
The Liberal budget and its proposals must still pass a legislative vote and with a minority government, the Liberals will need support from opposition party members. If the budget fails to get that support the government could fall and send Ontarians back to the election polls.
The Conservatives have already said they will not support the budget, but the New Democrats have said they are willing to discuss changes to the plan and consider voting in support.