CSA Grass Roots Advocacy Campaign

Fall 2000 CSANews Issue 36  |  Posted date : Mar 06, 2007.Back to list

Background
As discussed in the last issue of CSA NEWS, we are requesting a "call to action" by the CSA membership to directly contact your local and federal politicians regarding various important CSA issues.

As you can appreciate, politicians and bureaucrats are constantly being lobbied by groups regarding issues, particularly those involving health care, since these issues are increasingly important to our aging population. The CSA is seeking other means of influencing the government in addition to the representations your association has been making for years. We need your personal voice!

We ask that you use letters, e-mails, telephone calls or any other acceptable means of communication to let our politicians and bureaucrats hear your individual voice which, collectively, will be the voice of our members en masse. As we all know, there is some truth to the saying "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" ­ or in our case ­ wheels get the grease.

On the pages that follow, you will find a brief summary of the issues, charts describing your province's policy regarding a given issue, a contact list (on the back cover) of all provincial health ministers and the federal health minister including their mailing addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, plus sample letters you can use or draw from to have your voice heard.

The Method
The method is easy! We have drafted four sample letters (on the pages that follow) that we encourage you to write and send by mail or e-mail, or via any other acceptable means of communication, to let your provincial and federal politicians and bureaucrats know your views.

We believe that these letters express the points we feel are important, and that may assist in getting the "squeaky wheel greased." Feel free to personalize these letters with your own experiences and please send the CSA copies of your communications, so we can measure the success of our effort.

Snowbird Residency Requirement
Each province requires a snowbird to be "resident" in his or her province in order to maintain provincial health insurance coverage. The term "resident" is defined differently under health legislation in each province, but generally in all provinces, it means that a person must reside in his or her province for at least 183 days within any 12-month period, except for Ontario and Newfoundland where it is 153 days and 4 months, respectively (the "Minimum Residency Requirement").

British Columbia requires its residents to be present in Canada for 183 days. Some provinces also permit short-term travel in excess of its Minimum Residency Requirement, however, these are policies of various health ministries rather than legislation.

For example, Saskatchewan allows its residents to take short-term trips within Canada in excess of the Minimum Residency Requirement, while Quebec is more specific and allows an unlimited number of short-term trips, not exceeding 21 days, anywhere in the world (as opposed to anywhere in Canada only) in excess of the Minimum Residency Requirement.

See the chart above for your province's Minimum Residency Requirement and whether it allows (as a matter of policy, not law) short-term travel in excess of the Minimum Residency Requirement.

The CSA's position is that snowbirds in every Canadian jurisdiction should be allowed to remain out of province for a minimum of six months within a calendar year and have an unlimited number of short-term trips (of 21 days or less) anywhere in the world. This is currently the law within the province of Quebec. We ask that those CSA members in Quebec not contact their provincial politician regarding this matter, since we are satisfied with the situation there, at present.

DRAFT LETTER 1
COMPLIANCE WITH RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

Date:
The Honourable _____________:
Provincial Minister of Health
[Address]: Refer to contact page on back cover

Dear Honourable Minister of Health:

Re: Residency Requirement to Maintain Provincial Health Insurance Coverage

I am a snowbird and a member of the Canadian Snowbird Association (the "CSA"). The CSA is a not-for-profit organization that represents the interests of more than 100,000 travelling Canadians who reside for one or more months of the year, principally at their winter residences in the southern parts of the United States, such as Florida, Arizona, California and Texas.

I am writing to request changes to our provincial health insurance legislation that requires me to stay a certain number of days within the province to satisfy the residency requirement, in order to maintain my provincial health insurance coverage.

I am requesting that you take the necessary action to allow residents within our province to travel outside the province for a minimum of six months, and to travel for an unlimited number of short-term trips not exceeding 21 days anywhere in the world, while remaining insured under our provincial health insurance plan. This is the position advocated by the CSA as well as my personal view, and is currently the position within the province of Quebec. Ontario and Newfoundland have favourable residency requirements but I feel that additional short term trips of up to 21 days should be provided for, especially within Canada.

I believe that this is a common-sense approach for a retiree lifestyle and it will release me from being a "prisoner within my own province." In addition, the 21-day, short-term trip extension allows me to travel anywhere in the world but, more importantly, it does not restrict my travel within my own country to visit family and friends in other provinces.

Many Canadians fought and died in two World Wars to allow various freedoms, including the freedom to travel. Surely, an advanced democracy such as Canada and, in particular, our province, can seek ways that promote such a freedom and fix these antiquated laws.

I ask that you consider my letter and contact me and the CSA to advise us what action you will be taking regarding this matter. My address is written above and the CSA's address is 180 Lesmill Road, North York, Ontario, M3B 2T5.

As a voter, I trust you will listen to my concerns! Thank you.

Sincerely,
[Signature of CSA member]

Enforcement of Section 11(1)(b)(ii)
of the Canada Health Act

Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the Canada Health Act ("CHA") simply states that a provincial health insurance plan must pay the same amount for out-of-province health services that it would pay for similar health services within the province, with due regard to certain factors.

Although one ould believe that Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the CHA is fairly strightforward, the provinces have only been paying a flat, unidexed amount (without any reasonable explanation of how such amount was calculated) and without any regard to any factors.

The federal government has been equally guilty of allowing provinces to violate Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the CHA by doing nothing.

What this means to you as snowbirds is that the less government pays, the more you pay for your out-of-country travel insurance purchased from private travel insurance companies.

The CSA's position requires the provinces to develop a formula that is indexed annually to reflect changes in pricing of health-care services, and that accounts for various factors as described under Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the CHA. The CSA wants the federal government to engage in consultations with offending provinces to ensure compliance with the CHA.

See adjoining chart for the amount your province presently pays for in-patient and out-patient health services.

DRAFT LETTER 2
COMPLIANCE WITH CANADA HEALTH ACT
(LETTER TO PROVINCE)

Date:
The Honourable _____________:
Provincial Minister of Health
[Address]: Refer to contact page on back cover

Dear Honourable Minister of Health:
Re: Compliance with Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the Canada Health Act

I am a snowbird and a member of the Canadian Snowbird Association (the "CSA"). The CSA is a not-for-profit organization that represents the interests of more than 100,000 travelling Canadians who reside for one or more months of the year, principally at their winter residences in the southern parts of the United States, such as Florida, Arizona, California and Texas.

I am writing to request that the province comply with Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the Canada Health Act ("CHA") that essentially requires a provincial health insurance plan to pay the same amount for out-of-province health services that it would pay for similar health services within the province, with due regard to certain factors.

The province is presently not in compliance with Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the CHA, and is paying a flat amount (without any sufficient explanation of how this amount was determined) that does not reflect the changing prices for health services (i.e. it is not indexed), nor considers certain factors when assessing an out-of-country claim for health services. The result is that I am not deriving the benefit of my tax dollars as a Canadian, and I am paying higher private health insurance premiums to a travel insurance company.

I believe our province is breaking the law and violating the rule of law by placing itself above legal authority. This is ironic, when government expects its citizens to obey the law. I also find this inconsistent with the province's public endorsement of the principles under the CHA, especially the Portability criterion.

I ask that you consider my letter and contact me and the CSA to advise us what action you will be taking regarding this matter. My address is written above and the CSA's address is 180 Lesmill Road, North York, Ontario, M3B 2T5.

As a voter, I trust you will listen to my concerns! Thank you.

Sincerely,
[Signature of CSA member]

DRAFT LETTER 3
COMPLIANCE WITH CANADA HEALTH ACT (LETTER TO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT)

Date:
The Honourable Allan Rock
Minister of Health
16th Floor Brooke Claxton Building
Postal Locator: 0916-A, Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0K9

Dear Honourable Minister of Health:
Re: Compliance with Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the Canada Health Act

I am a snowbird and a member of the Canadian Snowbird Association (the "CSA"). The CSA is a not-for-profit organization that represents the interests of more than 100,000 travelling Canadians who reside for one or more months of the year, principally at their winter residences in the southern parts of the United States, such as Florida, Arizona, California and Texas.

I am writing to request that the federal government force my province to comply with Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the Canada Health Act ("CHA") that essentially requires a provincial health insurance plan to pay the same amount for out-of-province health services that it would pay for similar health services within the province, with due regard to certain factors.

My province is presently not in compliance with Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the CHA and is paying a flat amount (without any sufficient explanation of how this amount was determined) that does not reflect the changing prices for health services (i.e. it is not indexed), nor considers certain factors when assessing an out-of-country claim for health services. The result is that I am not deriving the benefit of my tax dollars as a Canadian, and I am paying higher private health insurance premiums to a travel insurance company.

I believe the province is breaking the law and violating the rule of law by placing itself above legal authority. This is ironic, when government expects its citizens to obey the law.

I believe the federal government is equally responsible for failing to take any action to enforce my province's compliance with the CHA. Section 15(1) of the CHA permits the federal government to withhold cash contributions to an offending province after it has engaged in a consultation process to enforce compliance.

The federal government is taking the convenient position that it has not started consultations regarding this matter, therefore cannot invoke Section 15(1) of the CHA. The CSA has lobbied for such changes since 1992, and the federal government is still doing nothing!

I request that you take action to require the federal government to take the necessary steps to start the consultation process and require my offending province to comply with Section 11(1)(b)(ii) of the CHA, otherwise the federal government should withhold my province's cash contributions under the CHA.

As you are aware, the 1987 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons commented upon the lack of federal parliamentary supervision regarding the CHA, despite the minister of health's duty under the CHA to make an annual report to Parliament, "... including all relevant information on the extent to which provincial health-care insurance plans have satisfied the criteria under the CHA..."

A review of the 1996/1997 Canada Health Act Annual Report suggests that the problems identified by the Auditor General in 1987 still have not been remedied, more than 13 years later.

I find this inconsistent with the federal government's public endorsement of the principles under the CHA, especially the Portability criterion.

I ask that you consider my letter and contact me and the CSA to advise us what action you will be taking regarding this matter. My address is written above and the CSA's address is 180 Lesmill Road, North York, Ontario, M3B 2T5.

As a voter, I trust you will listen to my concerns, especially with a pending federal election! Thank you.

Sincerely,
[Signature of CSA member]

Drug Policies for Travelling Canadians
The CSA's position is that snowbirds should be allowed to purchase a supply of prescription medication equal to the number of days that residents within a province are permitted to travel out of country or province.

Presently, there is no consistency in the way each province formulates its policy for snowbirds to take medication out of country while travelling abroad, in terms of the type of medication or supply. Some provinces senior drug programs do not even allow for purchasing prescriptions in other provinces within Canada.

The province that comes closest to the CSA's position is Ontario. Ontario snowbirds are allowed to purchase a 200-day supply of prescription medication, although they are permitted to remain out of country for seven months or 213 days.

Please review the Drug Policy Chart to determine your province's regulations. In your letter you should request your health minister to meet the simple and logical policy recommended by the CSA. The personal requests required by some of the provinces are simply unnecessary bureaucratic "red tape."

DRAFT LETTER 4
PROVINCIAL PRESCRIPTION DRUG SUPPLY FOR SNOWBIRDS

Date:
The Honourable _____________:
Provincial Minister of Health
[Address]: Refer to contact page on back cover

Dear Honourable Minister of Health:
Re: Provincial Prescription Drug Supply for Snowbirds

I am a snowbird and a member of the Canadian Snowbird Association (the "CSA"). The CSA is a not-for-profit organization that represents the interests of more than 100,000 travelling Canadians who reside for one or more months of the year, principally at their winter residences in the southern parts of the United States, such as Florida, Arizona, California and Texas.

I am writing to request that snowbirds be allowed to purchase a supply of prescribed medication equal to the number of days that residents are permitted to travel out of province or country. This is presently the law in Ontario.

Our province limits the supply of medication that I can purchase prior to departure to a fixed number of days, that does not equal the number of days that the province allows a person to remain out of province, while maintaining provincial health insurance coverage.

The result of this policy is that I have to order an additional supply while temporarily vacationing in another country. My prescription may be unavailable in such country and at minimum likely subject to delays, which could result in my being without required prescription medication for a period of time. This directly affects my health, and perhaps even my life.

As well, I have to pay higher prices for prescription drugs while outside Canada and then seek reimbursement from my province upon my return.

I ask that you consider my letter and contact me and the CSA to advise us what action you will be taking regarding this matter. My address is written above and the CSA's address is 180 Lesmill Road, North York, Ontario, M3B 2T5.

As a voter, I trust you will listen to my concerns! Thank you.

Sincerely,
[Signature of CSA member]

Although the supply of prescription medication does not exactly equal the total number of days an Ontario resident is permitted to stay out of province (short by approximately 14 days), the CSA requests that Ontario residents refrain from lobbying the Ontario minister of health, since we are in discussions regarding this matter and hope to have it changed in our favour shortly.

For those offending provinces that do not have a clear and consistent policy on this matter, snowbirds can find themselves without medication while vacationing in other countries, or paying excessive prices for such medication while away ­ either alternative is unacceptable to snowbirds. It can also be very difficult or even impossible to obtain a prescription renewal in other countries, thus endangering the health, and even the lives of snowbirds.
We thank you in advance for your time and effort in this initiative, and remember, we are only as powerful as our members, so now is your time to act!