CoverContraceptiON response to claims about contraception coverage in Ontario
Doctors and reproductive health advocates call for
increased access to contraception beyond the Ontario Drug Benefit
TORONTO – The CoverContraceptiON campaign continues to advocate for universal contraception coverage in the upcoming provincial election. Today, Health Minister Christine Elliott told CBC News the government has "programs that help people that find it difficult to pay for contraceptive products." Elliot said "the Ontario Drug Benefit program is available, as well as sexual health clinics that are available through public health units."
The CoverContraceptiON campaign affirms our stance that contraception is not widely accessible to the people of Ontario. As healthcare providers, we are on the frontline seeing the impact of the massive gap of contraceptive access in our healthcare system. We see the impact of a lack of contraceptive access on our patients every day.
While the Ontario Drug Benefit provides contraception coverage for a limited number of Ontarians, program coverage is not universal for all Ontarians. Millions of people in Ontario do not have access to the Ontario Drug Benefit. Moreover, the majority sexual health clinics have been closed or operating at limited capacity throughout the pandemic, significantly limiting patients’ ability to access reproductive and sexual health services.
For many in Ontario, pharmacy coverage largely remains dependent on whether benefits are offered through a person's work. This makes access to contraception particularly challenging for youth, those without a job that offers benefits, anyone currently in-between jobs, and other marginalized groups. While OHIP+ provides coverage for some youth under 25, dependent youth on their parents' private insurance do not have access to contraception confidentially unless they pay out of pocket.
Application and insurance processes are an additional barrier - where some insurers require upfront payment with later reimbursement, a significant barrier for those with limited income. Furthermore, copper intrauterine devices (IUDs)–one of the few non-hormonal contraceptive options–are often considered devices and often not covered.
Ensuring universal access to contraception for all people in Ontario will ensure there are no cost barriers to obtain contraception and ensure family planning can be done at the pace of each person in Ontario. Moreover, extensive research shows significant systems-level cost savings of implementing universal contraception. A 2015 study in the Canadian Association Medical Journal estimated that the savings–for direct medical costs of unintended pregnancy alone–would be approximately $320 million.
While it is a step in the right direction for the Ontario Drug Benefit to cover contraception, the reproductive health needs of our population are urgent and growing. Ontario is currently reliant on a patchwork of programs and services that are difficult to navigate and access for our most vulnerable. The calls for universal contraception are loud and clear, with the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Canadian Pediatric Society, and Canadian Medical Association all supporting universal no cost contraceptives. We encourage all political parties in Ontario to implement universal contraception. The time to act is now.
About Us: Cover ContraceptiON is a grassroots, non-partisan, volunteer-run campaign with the goal of providing universal, no-cost contraception to all people in Ontario. The Cover ContraceptiON campaign started at the beginning of the pandemic, when a group of frontline physicians at the University of Toronto recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic was intensifying pre-existing inequities among marginalized populations – those of low socioeconomic status, cultural minorities, Black and Indigenous peoples and residents of rural communities. The time to act in Ontario is now.