Disclosure: The post was developed in association with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The opinions of the author are their own.

When my 22-year-old son Alex was zipping down the slopes on his snowboard at the ski area where he also works, the last thing on his mind was whether or not he’d need prescription drug coverage. He was healthy and required no ongoing medication. But a sharp turn, a horrifying crash and a spiral break of his tibia meant that he’d need prescribed medication to get him through the worst of the pain.

Like many young people, Alex wasn’t covered under a student drug plan, either through an institution or his parents (as many full-time students are), nor did his contract employer provide him with a corporate drug plan. He had no choice but to cover the Tylenol 3’s out of his own pocket, while recovering from a physical break that would take him out of the workforce for a full five months.

As of January 1st, 2018, should anyone else under 25 find themselves on a ski hill with the same or similar predicament, they can rest assured that their last concern will be whether they can afford prescribed medication which might make their recovery just a little bit smoother.

The province of Ontario is introducing OHIP+ which will see over 4,400 prescription drugs become eligible for coverage, free of charge, to Ontarians under age 25. There is no need to register; when visiting a pharmacist, you only need your health card number and valid prescription from doctor or nurse practitioner. That’s it. There is no deductible and eligible prescriptions can be filled free of charge at any Ontario pharmacy.

For parents of young children, who don’t have a comprehensive drug plan, this is of course of huge benefit, but it is also a big relief to young adults under 25 who find themselves without adequate drug plan coverage, like Alex. In an age of internships and contract/part time jobs, every penny counts and no one should have to choose between required medication and groceries, tuition or rent. Young people aged 19-24 are less likely to have access to prescription drug coverage or the financial means to pay out-of-pocket due to higher unemployment and lower incomes. The unemployment rate for youth (aged 15-24) in Ontario is almost three times higher than the unemployment rate for adults over the age of 25.

The new OHIP+ is easy to figure out as well. Simply enter the name of the drug you require into the search engine online, and you’ll get a list of drugs (generic and otherwise) which are eligible for free coverage. The online tool is also mobile friendly for easy access.

Common drugs which will be covered include asthma inhalers, drugs to treat depression, anxiety, epilepsy, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, antibiotics, EpiPens, diabetes test strips, oral contraceptives, medications to treat some childhood cancers and other rare conditions, and thousands of others.

For young adults like Alex, who also happens to be my son, and who required this one-time medication, and for other parents of children who require ongoing medication, like my sister-in-law and her two children who have diabetes and require insulin, and test strips, etc. this coverage provides a much-needed break; far less painful than the ones sustained on a ski hill.

To learn more about OHIP+ visit www.ontario.ca/OhipPlus.

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