Change in the works for diabetics receiving Disability Tax Credit

Taxes have been dominating federal politics recently, with splashy headlines and lots of Question Period time devoted to new rules for small business and the Paradise Papers which exposed details on Canada’s offshore tax haven elites.  One of the dangers of big issues garnering so much attention is that it’s possible for other important developments to fly under the radar. That is the case for diabetics and Canadians with a range of mental conditions whose eligibility for a Disability Tax Credit is being stripped away. 

For years, people who required more than 14 hours per week for insulin therapy, and also had a doctor’s certification qualified for the benefit which reimbursed some of the costs associated with treating Type-1 diabetes. The government is claiming advances in technology make the credit obsolete, but Diabetes Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, and the Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism are crying foul and saying the government offered no explanation for the change during initial interactions earlier in the year.

Diabetics are wondering where the rational is coming from as well. They are told they should be testing their blood 3 or 4 times a day and point out that the test strips can cost as much as a dollar a piece. Diabetes Canada confirms the long-standing tax credit helped with the management of a disease that can cost the average sufferer $15,000 annually.

It’s not as if diabetics have much choice in the matter either. Type-1 diabetes is incurable and if blood sugar levels are not properly managed, it can lead to further, sometimes life-threatening health problems. Diabetics understand the more a person tests, the better they can control their disease, which ultimately ensures lower costs for our medical system. With these changes, there is concern that that many diabetics on a lower income won’t test as much because it’s expensive.

New Democrats say the move is ill founded. They explain that people are being denied the tax credit despite meeting eligibility criteria. They are concerned about the negative impacts and promise to continue to raise these issues in the Commons while keeping a close eye on any developments. And developments are very much a possibility, considering how the government back-tracked on other tax plans when faced with wide-spread, and vocal, opposition. In addition to modifying changes to the rules for incorporation of small businesses, they also withdrew a plan to target employee discounts this fall.

Diabetes Canada says that thousands of claimants from across Canada who previously qualified for the benefit have been rejected in recent months. Applicants are now being denied on the basis that ‘the type of therapy indicated does not meet the 14 hour per week criteria,’ even when the claimants are supported by certification from licensed medical practitioners. It should also be noted that the DTC changes aren’t limited to diabetics. Canadians with autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental health issues are also reported to have been denied the credit.

Whatever their reasons may be, the government has a growing PR headache on their hands. The Paradise Papers showed how billions of tax dollars are being siphoned away from Canada every year. New Democrats continue to call on successive governments to change the rules that allow that to happen, but the official silence is deafening. Meanwhile the government is looking to increase revenue by targeting some of the most vulnerable people in our society as they continue to let the big fish off the hook.