Today the Liberal government released their 2018 Ontario Budget entitled “A Plan for Care and Opportunity”. This “health-focused” budget included significant new investments in health care, child care, home care and mental health with a total budget spend of $20.3 billion over the next three years. Additional spending was also announced in education, seniors, social services and growing the economy. We were disappointed to see that there were no new announcements made with regards to additional funding to primary care and interprofessional teams but here are some highlights of the budget that may be of interest to AFHTO members.
Primary Health Care:
As mentioned above, no new funding was announced in the 2018 budget for interprofessional primary care teams, but the budget did reference the 2017 commitments that were made:
Mental Health Matters:
In this 2018 budget, the government is making an additional investment of $2.1 billion over the next four years for mental health and addiction services for people of all ages across the province. This brings the total investment in mental health and addiction services in Ontario to more than $17 billion over four years. Some of the initiatives that will be rolled out include:
Increased Funding for Hospitals:
In 2018-19, the province is investing an additional $822 million to hospitals, contributing to a 4.6% growth in funding, which is the largest single government investment in health care in almost a decade. In addition, the province is investing approximately $19 billion over 10 years to build and renovate hospitals across the province. Ontario is also moving ahead with a commitment to invest up to $10 million to create a Centre of Excellence in Health Care Artificial Intelligence, starting with $1.3 million in 2018-19.
New Ontario Drug and Dental Program:
The government is introducing a new Ontario Drug and Dental Program which will reimburse 80% – up to a maximum of $400 per singe person, $600 per couple and $700 for a family of four with two children – of eligible prescription drug and dental expenses each year, for those without workplace benefits and not covered by OHIP+ or other government programs.
Expansion of OHIP+:
On January 1, 2018, the government introduced OHIP+, a no cost drug coverage program, for children and youth under the age of 25, regardless of income. Starting in August 1, 2019, OHIP+ will be expanded to seniors over the age of 65 with the elimination of the annual deductible and co-payment for seniors under the ODB program.
Home and Community Care:
The government is investing an additional $650 million (including $180 million in new funding) in home care over the next three years to provide more access to home and community health care services. This would include 2.8 million more hours of personal support and 284,000 more nursing visits and 58,000 more therapy visits.
Over the next three years, the government will invest an additional $23 million to add an estimated 5,500 PSWs to the workforce, especially in underserviced areas such as rural, northern and remote communities. Over the next three years the government will also invest an additional $38 million in education and training for new and existing PSWs to ensure that they have the skillset they need to work in the increasingly complex home care environment.
Home and community care investments of $5 million has also been committed to enable better coordination, scheduling and connections between patients, families and caregivers by enhancing digital information and communication tools – this includes provider access to CRIS and further investments in at home technology.
The government is investing $300 million over three years in new funding, starting with $50 million in 2018-19, to hire a registered nurse for every long-term care home, and setting a goal of increasing the provincial average to four hours of daily care per resident by 2022. The government is proposing to create 30,000 new long-term care beds over the next 10 years, adding 5,500 new beds by 2022.