Passengers await a flight in Fort Simpson in December 2018. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The co-payment fee for medical travel affecting Northwest Territories residents is increasing from $125 to $200 effective June 1.
The Department of Health and Social Services announced the change in a news release on Thursday.
The co-payment is a deductible paid to the NWT government by people who have to travel outside their community to access insured health services.
Increased fees will only affect NWT residents who don’t have medical travel benefits through insurance, and who don’t meet the territory’s definition of “low income” for medical travel purposes.
At the same time, the department said it had expanded its definition of “low income” to include more people – meaning fewer will have to pay the fee.
Recognizing the $75 increase per one-way trip may be a barrier to some families, the department said, a new-look “low income” threshold will now feature “different family compositions and living circumstances.” Those who qualify now include:
people with an income of $70,000 a year or less;
people who are married or common-law, with a combined income of $85,000 a year or less; and
people with one or more children under 18 living in their house, with a combined income of $100,000 a year or less.
The department said the fee increase is needed to meet costs associated with the medical travel program. According to the territory, such fees have remained “relatively unchanged” since 1995.
A new “exceptions policy” is also being introduced, allowing people in exceptional circumstances to apply for a fee exemption.
The NWT’s director of medical insurance will make decisions about such requests on a case-by-case basis.