Ontario NDP platform to include pharmacare, dental benefits for all workers

Ontario’s New Democratic leader unveiled parts of her platform at a campaign event on Saturday, saying the party will offer universal pharmacare and dental care for all Ontarians if elected.

The party’s five policy points — which also include lowering wait times for health-care services, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Ontarians and converting student loans to grants — were part of a preview of the party’s full campaign platform, which Horwath said would be delivered in the coming weeks.

Read: Budget confirms new advisory council on implementation of national pharmacare

Under the NDP’s proposed dental care plan, all Ontarians will have dental coverage, with working people and their families covered through their employer, and all other Ontarians covered through a public plan.

“In Ontario, one in three working people don’t have a workplace benefits plan, including those working in the gig economy,” said Horwath. “And seniors and those on social assistance are left without coverage, too.

“That means millions of people are not covered for basic dental care. It means they have to live in pain, deal with the lifelong damage of going without dental care, or rack up credit card bills to see a dentist. It’s time to help people be healthier, and make life more affordable in Ontario.”

Horwath said her plan, which aims to cover about 4.5 million people who currently don’t have dental benefits, will be fully implemented by the end of her first term as premier.

Read: How do Alberta’s dental fees compare to other provinces?

For all employed people — including part-time workers, contractors, freelancers and people working in non-traditional settings — a publicly administered program called Ontario Benefits will create a minimum standard for dental plans that will apply to all employers. Businesses can meet the standard by participating in the program or choosing a comparable workplace benefits plan, according to a news release.

“Mom and pop family businesses are going to have an even playing field when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees, and taking care of their staff,” said Horwath. “And artists and entrepreneurs will have the freedom to pursue their dreams, without worrying that their health or their family’s health could suffer from the lack of benefits.

“Together with our pharmacare plan — a drug plan that covers all Ontarians, regardless of age, income or job status — we’re going to deliver lower cost, less worry and better health for everyone.”

Read: How has the group insurance market changed since 1977? 

The NDP’s proposed pharmacare program will provide access to essential medications for everyone in Ontario. It will begin with universal coverage for 125 essential medications and will grow and expand as savings are realized for uninsured families, as well as businesses and private payers that cover employee drug benefits, according to the NDP.

The issue of dental coverage is the subject of Benefits Canada‘s weekly online poll. Is it time for dental services to be part of the public health-care system? Have your say in this week’s poll.

The previous online poll asked whether or not the new five-week parental sharing benefit announced in the federal budget is a good idea. Slightly more than half (53 per cent) of respondents said no, suggesting it’s one more leave for employers to worry about and an unnecessary measure after the government extended employment insurance parental benefits last year. On the other side, 47 per cent felt it’s a good idea and suggested the incentive would help parents share child-rearing responsibilities and women to more easily enter the workforce.

Read: Budget offers details on new five-week leave for second parent