July 1 final expiry date for red and white health cards

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TORONTO – The bells have been tolling for the venerable red and white Ontario health cards for decades following the province’s decision to switch to photo ID cards in an effort to combat health care fraud.

Switching to the new cards comes cost-free, but holders of the old red and whites are advised to dither no more; after July 1, 2020 you will need one of the new photo ID cards to access Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) services in the province of Ontario.

“The advanced security features of the photo health card help protect our public health system and is another measure to improve value for taxpayers’ dollars,” said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of Health in a release. “While there is no cost to convert or renew an Ontario photo health card, there could be significant costs by allowing red and white health cards, which could be used fraudulently, to remain in circulation. Each month, individuals using these outdated cards access up to $108 million in health services.”

Starting this month, individuals with red and white health cards will begin to receive letters letting them know that they will need to get a photo health card at a ServiceOntario centre before the July 1 deadline.

The release notes that a photo health card can easily be obtained for free at a ServiceOntario location by bringing the right original documents (that’s proof of Canadian citizenship or OHIP-eligible immigration status; proof of residency in Ontario and proof of identity) and completing a health card re-registration form, either ahead of time or by getting one at ServiceOntario when you visit the ServiceOntario centre.

Regardless of an individual’s health card status, Ontario’s public hospitals cannot refuse to provide services to a patient who is faced with a life-threatening medical emergency, but red and white card holders who do not convert by July 1 may be asked to pay up-front for insured health services as their red and white health card will not be valid. 

Once a photo health card is obtained, eligibility for Ontario health insurance is restored and any payments made for OHIP-insured health services will be promptly reimbursed once a valid health card is provided.

Approximately 300,000 red and white health cards remain in circulation. This represents two percent of all Ontario health cards.

In addition to sending multiple notification letters, the province will also advertise the final transition at all ServiceOntario locations and promote these changes on the ministry’s social media channels.