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Ontario steps up plans for free expanded health services

Province will use an online survey to work out the details of how to provide benefits to workers in low-income positions that do not such things as prescription, vision and dental plans
270922_LG_Ontario health plans PHOTO

The province of Ontario said Tuesday it is moving forward on the plan to expand benefits for healthcare, dental services, prescription drugs and vision care to workers who need the coverage. 

"Results from an online public survey will inform the design and implementation of a proposed benefits plan that would make Ontario the first province in Canada to cover millions of precarious workers in sectors such as retail, the gig economy and hospitality," said a news release from Queen's Park.

Monte McNaughton, the Ontario minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, said for too long access has been denied to far too many Ontario residents.

“How or where you work should not determine whether you have access to benefits like health and dental plans,” McNaughton said.

“Our government is giving workers the protection and confidence they need to provide for their families and build stronger communities for us all.”

The ministry said most Ontario workers with full-time jobs have medical insurance and dental coverage. However, fewer than a quarter of people who work part-time or in precarious jobs have similar benefits.

It means these workers and their families often have to make difficult choices between their health and other necessities like food and shelter, said the release. This includes independent contractors, gig workers, low-wage workers, newcomers, younger workers and racialized people who are less likely to have workplace benefits.

Public feedback is open until Dec. 16 and will help determine the Portable Benefits Advisory Panel's recommendations, expected in summer 2023. Here is a link to the provincial survey.

Expanding health and benefits coverage is part of Ontario’s ambitious plan to attract the best workers from across Canada — and around the world, said the release.

Setting up the survey to determine how to provide more health benefits was a plan laid by the Ontario government last summer. McNaughton appointed a five-person panel to come up with plans for improving benefits in the workplace.