Higher travel subsidies, more destinations for Yukon medical travellers

·2 min read

Yukoners have more options for where they can go for outside medical treatment as well as higher daily subsidies under new rules that went into effect on Jan. 1.

The territorial government had committed last year to raising the subsidies from $75 per day to $150.

It was one of the recommendations in last spring's wide-ranging Putting People First, a report by an independent expert panel that conducted a comprehensive review of health and social services in Yukon.

At a briefing Thursday morning, officials went over the new rules.

Affordability

Along with doubling the daily rate for multi-day medical travellers, they can now claim the subsidy for the first day of travel. Outpatient escorts receive $75 per day, inpatient escorts $150 per day and same-day travellers and their escorts $75.

Affordability was a major issue raised during a public consultation in 2019 when officials heard that Yukoners are often left paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for medical travel.

"The cost of accommodation, meals, and local transportation, combined with lost wages, is much more than $75 per day," a report on the consultation said.

It says people were even refusing to travel for medical care because of the cost.

Under the previous rules people could generally only be sent for medical treatment to Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton.

Their doctors can now ask for them to be sent anywhere in Canada where the treatment is available. That would let people request travel to cities where they have close family members.

"That is one of the guiding principles where people can actually go where they have family, where it's less cost for them," said Marguerite Fenske, acting director of insured health and hearing services with Health and Social Services.

"But we also know that being close to your families will provide those additional supports that you really require," she said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

The government eliminated rural travel subsidies for people who live close to Whitehorse and were able to claim money for medical appointments in the city.

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost says the government will also be opening a new unit to provide support to people going on medical travel by coordinating travel arrangements, answering questions and other support.

"What happens when they come out of a small community and are not familiar with that type of interaction, where do they go? What do they do? They needed a point contact and this will allow for that," said Frost.