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  • Natalie Lo

Insurance Fails to Cover Glaucoma Treatments Costs

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60, and as a result, it is imperative to begin and continue treatment to prevent further complications as soon as it is diagnosed. However, it is not that easy to treat. Though Canada prides itself on its free healthcare system, there are still many flaws within it. Insurance does not cover many glaucoma tests and treatments, and as a result, many cannot afford glaucoma medications, resulting in preventable blindness.

To determine the proportion of glaucoma patients in Ontario (aged 25-64) who do not have enough insurance coverage to afford treatments, researchers from the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology surveyed glaucoma patients across 2 clinics in Ontario. 25.8% of patients expressed concern about the cost of treatments, with 15.5% admitting that they missed out on treatments regularly due to cost-related nonadherence. Almost a third (32%) missed eye drops in a given week.

The consistency at which glaucoma medications are taken is perhaps one of the most significant factors in the effectiveness of the medications. They are not meant to be a cure, but a stabilizer, so when patients cannot afford to take them, damaging results occur. A patient's glaucoma may no longer be under control and could progress rapidly without treatment, resulting in vision loss and blindness.

What are the implications of these findings? Canada needs to do better. We pride ourselves on our healthcare system, yet our healthcare system neglects so many, and in this case, it results in preventable vision loss. Many glaucoma tests and treatments are not covered under OHIP and must be paid for out of pocket. In order to produce real, lasting change that will allow all patients to receive treatment, regardless of their socioeconomic status, new policies must be put into place. Whether it be an improvement to OHIP and employer insurance programs, or pharmacare for all, it is evident that change needs to happen so that people do not lose their vision just because they cannot afford the treatment.

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