Campaign aims to get Ontario to extend OHIP to all residents

A new campaign is calling on the Ontario government to extend OHIP benefits to everyone living in the province, including foreign workers and students, so they don't have to pay out of pocket.

Foreign workers and students among those who have to pay out of pocket for care: Advocates

Brendan Lew, right, speaks at an event in front of Kitchener city hall Tuesday that was part of the kickoff for the campaign OHIP For All. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

Not every person living in Ontario has access to the same healthcare coverage and a new campaign is hoping to persuade the provincial government to change that. 

"Across Ontario, there are approximately 200,000 people who are uninsured and unable to access proper health care," said Brendan Lew, a medical student at McMaster University's Kitchener campus.

"The population of Kitchener is approx 200,000 so there is effectively a hidden city of Kitchener in Ontario that is not accessing the proper care, which is just a bewildering number. That is so scary."

Lew spoke at an event outside Kitchener city hall Tuesday to kick off the province wide campaign OHIP For All. Similar events were held in other cities, including Toronto, Ottawa and Peterborough.

Pay out of pocket

"I know personally when I was doing my undergraduate degree, there were many international students who I knew who had to pay out of pocket for health care that they shouldn't have. These are things that should be covered because they are living in Ontario, they're not here for a two day vacation," Lew said, adding sometimes, people also wait too long to get healthcare because they don't have coverage.

'Spark real change'

Organizers will be petitioning the provincial government to extend OHIP coverage to every resident, said Will Caron, a co-organizer of the Kitchener event.

"We obviously want this to spark real change," he told CBC News prior to Tuesday's event.

"We hope that this does spark conversation and that people are aware of what is happening within OHIP and how OHIP actually works for people who are in vulnerable situations, such as precarious immigration status."