Fanshawe College’s Pharmacist Patrick Shum is hard at work preparing hundreds of prescriptions for students following the official launch of OHIP+. Students are sighing in relief now that 44-hundred prescription medications are free.
Ontario is now the first province providing prescription medications free to children and youth 24-years-old and younger. The majority of this demographic includes high school and post-secondary students, many of which do not have benefits through their parents.
Post-secondary institutions offer students temporary benefits through their undergraduate programs, however, the plans still require students to pay a portion of the prescription.
Danielle Collier is a Western University student in her fourth year majoring in Philosophy and Visual Arts. Collier suffers chronic migraines and takes a daily medication for preventative measures, as well as another drugs for abortive measures in case she begins to experience migraine symptoms.
Collier losses out on any form of private benefits, but is temporarily covered under Western’s student insurance plan. This is Collier’s last semester as an undergraduate student and her prescription medication is expensive. Collier makes the point that people with chronic diseases often have medication that is on the rather expensive side because it is a way companies can take advantage of people who do not have a choice. When Collier covers her pills without benefits, her daily preventative pills cost about $270 a month and the abortive prescription costs about $60 every two months. On average, Collier would have to spend $300 a month to make her everyday chronic pain bearable.
“I wouldn’t be able to be a student and commit myself to having something like a nine to five job. I wouldn’t be capable of having the goal or aspiration to with the severeness of the migraines that I have without this medication,” notes Collier.
For anyone that qualifies for the program, on their 25th birthday they automatically no longer qualify for the OHIP+ program.
“I don’t have to bridge that gap of graduating and finding a job while having to pay prescriptions. I don’t have to worry about paying hundreds of dollars out of my pocket so that’s super nice. I can now put that money into a savings account for when I will have to pay the medication in full after I’m 25-years-old, and/or put more money towards things like groceries.”
As a full-time student Danielle must meet strict deadlines and attend class for participation, although she has disability accommodations through Western, missing class is not ideal especially when all professors differ with how they understand her disease. Collier admits she takes more doses of her daily medication to do anything she can to prevent a migraine that typically lasts for two days in order to meet her expectations as a student.
Generic Brands Only
Fanshawe’s Pharmacist Patrick Shum confirmed that OHIP+ only covers the generic brands, which could become a problem for some students.
“The reason why I switch up the generic and name brands — it’s possible it could be a placebo effect — but it’s because I find sometimes one brand won’t work. So, if I continue doing the generic and then I need to switch to the name then I will have to pay out of pocket. From time to time, if I have the money I probably will do that because it is still a huge help that the generic brand is 100% covered,” shares Danielle Collier, a Western University student with chronic migraines.
High Schoolers and OHIP+
High school students across the province are included in the OHIP+ program. Collier makes the point that her birth control is also covered, as will it be for many young women, which is a liberating step forward.
“If a child doesn’t feel comfortable asking their parents for birth control, or simply cannot afford it then it’s a great way to keep families happy and healthy, and even keep people off the streets,” Collier acknowledges.
Another plus for parents who do not have benefit plans for their families, especially those in low-income positions. However, the money comes at $465-million annual cost to taxpayers.
All one requires is a valid health card and prescription and no deductibles or co-payments exist. To make matters even easier, the coverage is automatic so one does not need to enroll or register. Whether it be antibiotics for infections, inhalers for asthma, or diabetic test strips to even some cancer treatments for children, OHIP+ covers all drugs listed on the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary.