Effective November 1, 2004, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care de-insured, or delisted, routine eye examinations for Ontarians aged 20 to 64 years. We examined whether this delisting reduced Ontarians' access to eye care providers (ophthalmologists and optometrists).
Ontario respondents to the Canadian Community Health Survey in 2000/2001 (n = 39 234 before delisting) and 2007/2008 (n = 43 835 after delisting).
We compared utilization rates of eye care providers by Ontarians in a 12-month period in 2000/2001 to utilization rates in 2007/2008 using self-reported data.
Among Ontarians aged 40 to 64 years, utilization was significantly reduced (-7.2%, p 0.05) by those who had completed secondary school or higher education. A reduction of -5.4% was observed among Ontarians in the lowest income quintile in contrast to increased utilization in all other income groups (p > 0.05). Before delisting, the gap in utilization between people with and without a secondary school graduation certificate was 4.7%. This gap doubled to 11.2% after delisting (p 0.05). Cost was the likely barrier that resulted in this finding.
The use of eye care providers among socially disadvantaged Ontarians decreased significantly after vision care services were delisted. The effects of delisting appear to have caused an inequity in access to eye care providers, and that contradicts the objectives of the Canada Health Act.