Liberals restoring refugee health benefits cut by previous government

Fully expected: in the Liberal platform and Minister McCallum’s mandate letter. Another commitment met, another Conservative policy undone:

The Liberal government has restored refugee health-care benefits cut by the previous Conservative government.

Speaking at a joint announcement Thursday, Immigration Minister John McCallum and Health Minister Jane Philpott said the Interim Federal Health Program, which provides health-care coverage for asylum claimants and refugees, will be fully restored to pre-2012 levels.

“All refugee claimants and refugees will now be covered,” Mr. McCallum told reporters in Ottawa. “The system had disintegrated into something of such enormous complexity that it was virtually unmanageable.”

The Conservative government scaled back refugee health-care benefits in 2012, arguing that the cuts would deter “bogus” refugees from coming to Canada and save taxpayers money. The Federal Court eventually found that the changes were unconstitutional and ordered the government to reinstate the benefits, leading the Conservatives to restore some. The Tory government launched an appeal of the court’s decision, which the Liberals eventually dropped.

Before 2012, refugee claimants had their health-care costs covered by the federal government until their application for status was decided or they became eligible for provincial health-care coverage.

The health-care benefits will be fully restored as of April 1, according to Mr. McCallum. The coverage will include hospital and physician services, while coverage for supplemental services, such as vision, urgent dental care and prescription drugs, will be similar to what provinces and territories provide to Canadians on social assistance.

Dr. Philpott said the return to the pre-2012 program will “simplify everything.”

“There will be one path. Refugees, … whatever category they will fall into, they will be eligible for the basic levels of care in addition to some supplementary levels of care. And this will help refugees, it will help health-care providers and it will help Canadians,” she said.

The government’s announcement comes months after it committed to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, who were already receiving health-care coverage. An exemption in the 2012 law ensures that refugees being settled as a “result of a public policy or humanitarian and compassionate considerations on the minister’s own initiative” receive full access to health-care benefits.

The government also announced an expansion of the program to cover certain services for refugees who have been identified for resettlement before they come to Canada. Starting April 1, 2017, those services will include coverage of the immigration medical examination, pre-departure vaccinations, services to manage disease outbreaks in refugee camps and medical support during travel to Canada.

Source: Liberals restoring refugee health benefits cut by previous government – The Globe and Mail

Liberals promise to bring back refugee health benefits cut by Conservatives

No surprise, in platform and mandate letters, reversing a mean and nasty policy, one ultimately that would cost society more in the long-run:

The federal Liberals say they are poised to restore refugee health benefits trimmed by the previous Conservative government.

Health Minister Jane Philpott says an announcement will come very soon to reverse the cuts to refugee health care and, in the meantime, the needs of Syrian newcomers will be covered.

Prior to 2012, anyone awaiting a refugee status decision had their health care costs — including dental, eye care and medications — paid for by the federal government until their application was decided and provincial health coverage kicked in.

But in June that year, the Conservative government drastically scaled back the available coverage.

The Conservatives launched a challenge to a Federal Court ruling that found the changes they had made to the health-care system for refugee claimants were unconstitutional.

They also reinstated some of the benefits, though not all, to comply with the court ruling.

Source: Liberals promise to bring back refugee health benefits cut by Conservatives

Harper says only bogus refugees are denied health care. He’s wrong.

Good piece in Macleans:

Prime Minister Harper was indignant: “We have not taken away health care from immigrants and refugees. On the contrary, the only time we’ve removed it is where we had clearly bogus refugees who have been refused and turned down. We do not offer them a better health care plan than the ordinary Canadian can receive. That is not something that new and existing and old-stock Canadians agree with.”

Harper’s reference to “old-stock Canadians” got lots of attention. But what’s far more shocking, say refugee experts, is his stony denial of the truth: that the Conservative government has diminished the medical insurance provided to most refugees in Canada—tens of thousands of them, in fact.

As Maclean’s recently reported, the Conservative government made cuts to the Interim Federal Health (IFH) program in 2012 that drastically reduced the medical insurance provided to refugees who are privately sponsored or who make a refugee claim upon arriving in Canada. The two groups represent 59,285 of the refugees who came to Canada between 2012 and 2014, show the latest data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The cuts also affect more than 7,000 “legacy claimants” who arrived before December 2012 and are awaiting their claim hearing, according to the Canadian Council for Refugees.

These groups of refugees no longer have health insurance for prescription medications, and “supplemental” coverage for services such as prosthetics, physiotherapy and counselling, as well as emergency dental and vision care. (Pregnant women and children have been granted temporary coverage for medications, until the federal Court of Appeal decides later this year whether the cuts should be reversed. Children also receive supplemental coverage.)

The only group not affected by the IFH cuts is government-assisted refugees, of which 18,646 were resettled in Canada between 2012 and 2014. They receive the same health insurance as the lowest-income Canadians.

“They’ve repeatedly tried to sell the cuts to the public by saying they are only taking away gold-plated health care from bogus refugees,” says Dr. Hasan Sheikh, an Ottawa physician and member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, of the Conservative government. “That is absolutely not true.”
Harper’s reference to “bogus claimants” during the debate is particularly noteworthy—and cringe-worthy, say refugee advocates. It’s a term that’s been used by Harper, as well as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, and his predecessor Jason Kenney, many times since 2012, as well as by other Conservative MPs during debates in the House of Commons.

Source: Harper says only bogus refugees are denied health care. He’s wrong.