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2018 Ontario Budget – A Plan for Care and Opportunity

2018 Ontario Budget – A Plan for Care and Opportunity
An overview of the Ontario government budget

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:

  • $102 million over three years (starting in 2017/18) to support the expansion of interprofessional primary care teams
  • Approximately $330 million over three years (starting in 2017/18) to support recruitment and retention of health care professionals for primary care teams across the province

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 access to publicly funded psychotherapy (announced in 2017) in primary care settings and through mental health and additions community agencies for patients with mild to moderate anxiety and depression;
  • Investing $570 million over four years to improve community services and mental health services for children and youth;
  • Investing $175 million over four years to expand school-based supports for mental health and addiction services;
  • Investment of $425 million to provide 2,475 additional supportive housing units over four years to reduce homelessness; and
  • Ongoing investments of $222 million (announced in 2017) to combat the opioid crisis in Ontario which includes the development of supervised injection sites and expanding access for naloxone to front-line community organizations.

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.

Long-Term Care:
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.

Other Announcements

  • Launching a new caregiver organization in the Spring of 2018 that will provide support across Ontario, including a single access point for information and resources to help caregivers in their roles.
  • Investment of $75 million over three years to strengthen and expand palliative and end-of-life care, including support for up to 20 new hospices across Ontario.
  • In 2019-20, the government proposes to introduce the new Senior’s’ Healthy Home Program which would provide $1 billion over three years to help seniors with the costs of maintaining their homes, translating to up to $750 per year for every eligible household led by seniors who are 75 years or older.
  • Starting in September 2020, Ontario will implement free licensed child care for preschool-aged children from the age of 2.5 until they are eligible for kindergarten, an investment of $2.2 billion over three years.

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