Canada and Quebec will launch universal insurance coverage for those with mental illness on July 1, 2016, the provinces announced Tuesday.
The move comes amid mounting evidence that the Canadian and Quebec economies are vulnerable to the fallout from the opioid crisis, and that the country’s mental health system is not up to the task of dealing with the rising numbers of cases.
The provincial and territorial governments will share a single plan for universal coverage, and the provinces have agreed to share their information to help people make informed choices about their options, said Health Minister Rona Ambrose.
People who qualify will have coverage that is comparable to the coverage that they already receive in their home province, and will be guaranteed access to care in the same facilities that they have access to now, she said in a news release.
The plan will be available to anyone who qualifies and will include health insurance that will cover most medical expenses, including hospitalizations, prescriptions and mental health care.
It also includes coverage for mental health-related services such as prescription drug coverage, prescription drugs, and prescription drugs and equipment, the release said.
For people who cannot afford to pay premiums, the provincial plans will be paid for out of pocket through payroll taxes, said the release.
In Quebec, the new plan is similar to the one that was introduced in July and has been widely embraced by the public.
People will be able to get coverage from the same pool of health insurance as those in Ontario and Manitoba.
The provinces will work with private insurers to determine the coverage rates for each region, Ambrose said.
It is important to note that while the province of Quebec will be responsible for covering those with health problems, Quebec will not be responsible if someone chooses to go elsewhere to get help, said Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette.
There is a lot of uncertainty about how we will proceed in Quebec, and we are committed to doing the best we can for Quebecers, he said.
The announcement came as Trudeau announced the creation of a national mental health commission to study the long-term implications of the opioid epidemic.
The commission will also report in early 2021.
The Trudeau government announced a $15-billion health budget for 2020-21, with $5.6 billion for mental-health programs, $2.6bn for opioid and substance abuse treatment, and $500 million for drug prevention and research.
It will also make $1 billion available to provinces for health-care spending.
The new plan will not apply to people who are already covered by their provincial health plan, but it will allow for coverage of those who are currently not covered, according to the release from the governments.
The government also announced that the provinces would begin sharing their data on insurance rates with the federal government.
It will also use that data to help the provinces and territories understand how to best plan their care, and to inform and empower them, it said.