The proposed changes to the supplemental health benefits policy are being tossed, according to the Minister of Health and Social Services.
The announcement was made by Sandy Lee at the legislative assembly on Friday, after strong opposition arose from seniors and other residents whose supplementary health care costs, including glasses, dental care and prescriptions, covered in the current benefits policy.
The current plan covers all supplementary costs for non-aboriginal Northwest Territories residents over the age of 60, on income assistance, or diagnosed with certain medical conditions such as cancer.
The changes would have seen coverage assessed by the recipients household income, and those above a certain income level would have to make a co-payment for their coverage.
According to Lee, the changes would have allowed the working poor to have full coverage, but residents were concerned about wanting to charge user fees on the elderly and the sick.
Aboriginal residents in the NWT are covered by a separate federal program.
A press release sent out by the GNWT states that, “the 2007 Policy on Supplemental Health Benefits will be withdrawn and the Department of Health and Social Services will concentrate efforts on ensuring existing extended health care benefits programs are fairly and consistently administered.”
It continues on to explain the changes it will now implement, which includes developing a pharmaceutical strategy which includes generic drugs, pricing and efficiencies, cost containment of distribution and access, the elimination of the 2004 grandfathering of Extended Health Benefits and amendments to both the Extended Health Benefits and the Metis Health Benefits program. Amendments will require both programs to require the use of third party insurance as the first option, and ensure parity with the Federal Non-Insured Health Benefits program.
“Decisions surrounding health care, particularly who pays and for what, are some of the most contentious and sensitive that a government faces,” Lee said. “We have agreed to move forward with changes consistent with the principles agreed to by the Joint Working Group, and to implement these changes during the life of this Government.”