Hot! Ottawa to cut health care for some refugees

TheStar.com – news/canada/politics
Published On Wed Apr 25 2012.   Nicholas Keung, Immigration Reporter

Ottawa will strip thousands of refugees of health-care coverage starting in July unless their conditions pose a threat to public health.

Critics called the move “mean-spirited” and warned that denial of health care could lead to unnecessary deaths.

“If this is what they are doing, there is no question that the application of this will result in people dying,” said lawyer Rick Goldman of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

Currently, all refugees are covered by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which provides basic health coverage, sometimes with supplementary services such as pharmaceutical care, dentistry, vision care and devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, if required.

As part of an overhaul of the asylum system that takes effects in July, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will establish a “safe country” list and expedite the processing of claims from these countries.

The plan announced Wednesday stipulates that rejected claimants and refugees from designated countries won’t be eligible for health care unless their conditions put the public at risk. All refugees will also be stripped of supplemental health coverage.

Although Kenney has not revealed the safe country list, Mexico and Hungary, which are likely to be designated, accounted for more than 5,000 asylum claims in Canada last year.

“These reforms allow us to protect public health and safety, ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely and defend the integrity of our immigration system all at the same time,” Kenney said in a statement.

Ottawa spent $84.6 million on the refugee health program in 2011. The changes will save the government $100 million over five years.

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