Immigration Minister John McCallum and Health Minister Jane Philpott recently announced that the Interim Federal Health Program, which provides health-care coverage for asylum claimants and refugees, will be restored to the level it was prior to 2012.
The Conservative government reduced refugee health-care benefits in 2012 in an effort to save taxpayers money by deterring “bogus” refugees from coming to Canada. The cuts included an end to almost all supplemental health-care benefits and to medical coverage for refugee claimants.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Mr. McCallum said, “All refugee claimants and refugees will now be covered.”
The health-care benefits which Mr. McCallum says will be fully restored as of April 1st 2016 and will cover hospital and physician services, along with supplemental services such as vision, urgent dental care and prescription drugs, in accordance with social assistance provisions.
The tens of thousands of Syrian refugees that are being resettled in Canada are already eligible for health-care coverage due to an exemption in the 2012 law that ensured refugees being settled as a “result of a public policy or humanitarian and compassionate considerations on the minister’s own initiative” will receive full access to health-care benefits.
The government also announced an expansion of the program aimed at benefiting refugees who have been identified for resettlement before they come to Canada. From April 1, 2017, those services will include coverage of the immigration medical examination, pre-departure vaccinations, service to manage disease outbreaks in refugee camps and medical support during travel to Canada.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the move will help provinces fill the funding gap while Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), said her organization welcomes the announcement.
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