Millroy: Northern Health Travel Grant – “Get It Done!”

I’m not about to issue a major complaint here about the 73-32 defeat in the Ontario Legislature of Algoma–Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha’s proposed Bill 13, the Northern Health Travel Grant Advisory Committee Act.

But I do believe that rather than being brushed aside so lightly, it should have been given more consideration.

After all, all Mantha was asking in the bill is that a committee be formed to review the Northern Health Travel Grant Program and recommend changes to the Ministry of Health.
That, to me who sits on the outside, doesn’t seem too much to ask.

But to our MPP, Ross Romano who sits on Progressive Conservative government bench, it does.
“This proposed legislation seeks to establish yet another advisory committee to have further discussions,” Romano wrote in an email to The Sault Star.
“I believe we need to focus on decisive action to improve the health care system for northern families.”
I don’t disagree with focusing on improving the health care system in the north. I just think looking at improving the travel grant program is a fit for that.

The program, established in 1985, offers financial assistance to Northern Ontario residents who have to travel at least 100 kilometers one-way to access the nearest medical specialist or ministry-funded health care facility services that are not available locally.

While the program’s reimbursement rates have been subject to increases over the last four decades, Mantha said he believes the current travel grants are insufficient, given the recent spike in prices for gas, food and general accommodations.

Lise Vaugeois (Thunder Bay–Superior North) said the inadequacies of the travel-grant program keep the people in her office “very, very busy,” especially when it comes to accommodating patients who must travel over 1,000 kilometres to Toronto to receive specialized care.

“The amount for kilometres is 41 cents a kilometre. It hasn’t been adjusted since 2007,” Vaugeois said.
“I think the hotel amount was adjusted in 2017, but there are very few places—I believe the hotel amount is … $100 a night but only to a maximum of $500. We know it costs an awful lot more than that to stay in a hotel these days.”

My read of the travel-grant program from the government’s website differs somewhat from Vaugeois’s when it come to the payment for accommodation.

The website says the program offers an accommodation allowance for patients who travel a one-way distance of at least 100 kilometers to reach the nearest medical specialist or ministry-funded health care facility able to provide the required services.

Patients must submit original accommodation receipts in their name or as a guest to prove accommodation expenses (for patients under the age of 18, an accommodation receipt can be in the name of their parent or guardian)

The website goes on to say a person may be eligible for “additional accommodation allowance” if it is necessary to spend more than one night out-of-town to access the required services.
It says the additional accommodation allowance for each treatment trip will be determined as follows: $100 per night up to two nights; $250 for three nights; $500 for four-seven nights; $550 for eight or more nights.

The key words here, of course, are “additional accommodation allowance.” That, to me, says this is a top-up of the original expense.

If that isn’t the case then here is a place the government could clean up the language so it can’t be misinterpreted.
Vaugeois has a point when it comes to the payment for kilometers travelled for which, for some unfathomable reason there is a 100-kilometre deductible, being too low.

The federal government website says reasonable allowance rates for 2024 are: 70 cents per kilometer for the first 5,000 kilometres driven; 64 cents per kilometre driven after that. In the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut, there are an additional four cents per kilometer allowed for travel.

From what I can gather, the Ontario government follows the rates prescribed for the lower provinces in conducting its own business. This says to me that it is time Ontario acknowledged that its payment per kilometre in regard to the travel grant is too low and moves to change it, with or without a bill such as Mantha’s.

A 29-cent difference between what government uses itself and what it allows those facing health problems is far too much.

The travel-grant program does not cover expenses for meals or taxi services. However, receipts for gas and meals should be kept for 12 months if the program requires proof of travel for audit purposes.
Those partaking in the program may visit any medical specialist, hospital or ministry-funded health care facility in Ontario or Winnipeg (Manitoba) that qualifies.

We in the north need this program and use it. It needs some updating. I say to government, get it done.

IF THE AMERICAN people don’t get an idea in which direction former president Donald Trump would take them if re-elected, their elevators are not making it to the top.

Trump played host to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last week, continuing his embrace of autocratic world leaders as he seeks reelection. Orban’s trip to the United States also included a stop in Washington, where he delivered remarks at the Heritage Foundation, which has close ties to Trump.
He didn’t meet with Joe Biden, the sitting president.

Trump sees himself as being in full control, which means a dictatorship. If he gets in again, all he has to do is surround himself with loyalists in all departments, including the military, to get there.

We can only hope enough Americans have enough brains to see this.

3 thoughts on “Millroy: Northern Health Travel Grant – “Get It Done!”

  1. Too many voters in the USA think Trump does not have a chance. Keep this in mind…..Trump has a base of about 40 percent and therefore needs very little more to win. Surely when voters go to the polls they will send this autocrat the message he hopes not to hear.

  2. Ross Romano hasn’t done a damn thing for North or our diminishing healthcare. While the PC government is not solely responsible for the slow collapse of our healthcare system, they’ve done nothing to improve it, in fact they seem intent on watching it fail. I suppose this is to make privatized medicine more palatable.

  3. Ontario Disability Support Program Mandatory Special Necessity Benefit for Medical transportation / accommodation / meal / … needs a major revamp.

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