Inequities in Ontario’s online health card renewal system must be addressed so marginalized people are not left behind

December 07, 2021

December 7, 2021

The Alliance for Healthier Communities (Alliance), the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario (AFHTO), the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council (IPHCC), and the Nurse Practitioner-led Clinic Association (NPLCA) call on the government to address the inequities in the online health card renewal system.

“The ability to renew the Ontario health card online is only available to people who hold a driver’s licence. This needs to change to include those with an Ontario photo card,” says Kavita Mehta, CEO of AFHTO. “There are a number of people who do not or cannot drive, including those with medical conditions. Like those with a licence, they need the same ability to renew online.”

The Ontario driver’s licence and the Ontario photo card are government-issued cards that show proof of identity and proof of residency, and they are both accepted for in-person renewal. The government does not accept the Ontario photo card for online renewal. 

“This is concerning at any time, and it is particularly concerning during a pandemic,” says Sarah Hobbs, CEO of the Alliance. “One group that could be disproportionately affected by this practice are people with disabilities. People made more vulnerable by the pandemic, and at higher risk, are also faced with inequitable access to this system. These populations should not be treated differently or be limited to only being able to access in-person ServiceOntario renewals. We call on the government to step up and make the online OHIP renewal system equitable and accessible for all people living in Ontario.”

Katie Hogue, nurse practitioner and chair of the NPLCA, echoes this concern. “There are many medical circumstances that can prevent people from driving, such as mobility challenges, vision impairment, dementia, and epilepsy. There are also conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, which can keep a person from driving while also making them immunocompromised. The system is not considering these people or their needs.” 

The CEO of the IPHCC, Caroline Lidstone-Jones notes this concern across the healthcare system. “The pandemic has highlighted inequities in our healthcare system. We must prioritize those who are vulnerable and at-risk. This discrimination is one example of an inequitable system but this one has a quick solution: allow people with a photo card to renew their health card online, the same way those with a driver’s licence can.”

The associations represent family health teams, community health centres, nurse practitioner-led clinics, Indigenous primary healthcare teams, and other interprofessional models of primary care in Ontario.

For further information: Beth MacKinnon; 647-234-8605 x1201;