Providing prescription drug coverage

First, I should apologize. This is not a thoroughly thought-out scheme but I’m having one of those nights where my mind races and I need to produce something from all that idle thought.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we want the government to pay for:

  1. All catastrophic drug costs (for example, beyond a certain percentage of income)
  2. Most costs for low-income families and individuals
  3. The costs of certain drug treatments with strong societal benefits (like HIV drugs)

Right now there is a complicated patchwork of programs in Ontario which aim to accomplish those goals, but navigating the bureaucracy can be a daunting task for a sick person who needs financial aid. When dealing with multiple programs, it is also possible there are holes in the safety net.

I propose we transform the OHIP cards into a sort of pharmaceutical credit card. A patient swipes her card at the pharmacy, the pharmacist transmits the OHIP ID and prescription cost to the Ministry of Health where a computer quickly calculates the subsidy, and that information is sent back to the pharmacy. Then the patient decides if she wants to fill the prescription, knowing the ultimate cost. If yes, the province pays the pharmacist up front and collects what it is owed by the patient later.

This way, we can reduce the paperwork and delay, get the drugs to the people who need them, and tie up the loose ends later. All that is accomplished with relatively little information: income, drug expenditures, and drug identity. The most difficult part would be rearranging the machinery of government, not operating the program.

Mystery Trail

Can anyone tell me what this park is called, and if there are any plans to improve it? Especially toward the south end it is less a trail than a rut in the grass.

It runs from Lincoln Mall straight north to the intersection of Niagara and Parnell. It is probably a former railway.

Empty Parks

Biking along Walker’s Creek this afternoon I was struck by how empty the park was. It’s a great way to quickly travel north-south without worrying about traffic, but I would expect it to be used by the neighbours as well. As a long, thin park it is near many houses.

Walker's Creek Trail

I wonder if part of the problem is that most houses, and even streets, do not meet the park. Where private property touches the park there are often fences. Entrances from the street are infrequent. Is it a coincidence that the only children I saw were just south of Lakeshore where what appears to be public housing is partially open to the park and its play equipment?

(Or maybe it’s just that there are no splash pads along the trail. They seem to be very well patronized this time of year.)

More bike lanes for St Catharines

As reported in The Standard, Welland Avenue between Grantham and Bunting will be reduced from four lanes to two, and gain a centre turning lane and bike lanes. The same will be applied to Vine Street between Lakeshore and Carlton.

It has been my experience that biking across the city (as opposed to within one’s neighbourhood) is difficult outside some isolated corridors, like the Welland Canal Trail. We are getting closer to a complete system of bicycle lanes in the north end that will make meaningful bicycle travel safer and simpler.

But we shouldn’t let these accomplishments go to our heads. There are still stretches of road that are off-limits to cautious (prudent?) bicyclists, like the crossings of highway 406 and the QEW. Many intersections, even with bike lanes, remain terrifying (try making a left turn).

Development charges remain in the news

Niagara’s development charges are among the lowest in southern Ontario — and the amount the Region collects annually covers less than a third of the cost of new infrastructure for development, said public works commissioner Ken Brothers. The Region already faces a $300-million capital budget shortfall over the next decade.

That should make the issue simple for council, Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey said.

“The money has to come from somewhere…. We don’t have a money tree growing behind regional headquarters,” Badawey said.

“The money is either going to come from the taxpayer, or it’s going to come from development charges.”

The consultant’s report suggests gradually increasing the fees for commercial and residential development over five years, from about $9 million annually to almost $17 million.


A quick two-way story

I was biking south on Queen Street when I got to the newly two-directional King Street and realized I could turn in whichever direction I felt like. It was a feeling of liberation – no more biking the long way around a block to get to my destination! Two-way traffic makes navigating downtown so much simpler.

GO finally goes to St Catharines

A GO train trundles out of St Catharines toward Toronto.

A GO train trundles out of St Catharines toward Toronto.

It would be an uncharacteristic omission for this blog if I did not note that today the first four weekend trains between Toronto and Niagara Falls stopped in St Catharines. Apparently more than 150 people got on the first Union-bound train this morning.

I happened (by design) to be in the neighbourhood this evening when a train roared in from the east. It was ten cars long, which seemed to me like overkill, but maybe it’s more trouble than it’s worth to rearrange the cars. There didn’t appear to be 150 people getting boarding this train, though there were probably as many as usually ride the weekday morning VIA.

There were also a number of train geeks there, and I mean no offence (as a transit nerd myself), but I did not want to pull my camera out and have all the other people there think I care about the serial number on the locomotive or whatever it is train geeks obsess over. Since I was on my bike, I made it out to where the tracks sever Ridley Street before the train pulled out and I took the above photo to prove that I’m not making this up.

I am glad that GO has finally extended service to St Catharines, even if the trains are seasonal and even then only on the weekends, and the buses don’t begin until autumn. It is a solid start (although I do have some concerns about the location of our local GO bus stop).

At this point, I am required by the rules of transit advocacy to point out that now the Region has to get its act together and create an intermunicipal transit system.