Ontario is cancelling old red-and-white health cards; promises 3 warnings

TORONTO, August 2012 – Millions of Ontarians could find themselves without health insurance coverage if they ignore government notices to get a new health card.

There are still more than 3.5 million Ontario residents with the old red-and-white health cards that have no expiry date.

One of them was CTV health reporter Avis Favaro, who discovered her OHIP card had been cancelled when she went to a Hunstville walk-in clinic after suffering a bad reaction to an insect bite.

Favaro was told she would have to pay $60 cash to see a doctor.

Government officials won’t comment on a specific case, but say people are sent three notices telling them to get a new health card with a photograph and a five-year expiry date.

If the card holder doesn’t respond, and the health card hasn’t been used in seven years, the government will suspend it.

“This is done to protect the integrity of our system,” Zita Astravas, press secretary to Health Minister Deb Matthews said in an email.

Officials haven’t said how many other people have complained about having their health cards cancelled, but said the Ontario Health Insurance Plan will consider paying back expenses they had to pay out of pocket.

“Generally speaking, if someone has received care after their card was cancelled and upon review their cancellation was a mistake, they may be eligible for a reimbursement upon their health card renewal,” said Astravas.

About 3,000 notices are mailed out each month to people asking them to register for a new photo health card.