The Federal government is making major changes to the Interim Federal Health Program, which refugee claimants have historically relied upon for healthcare. Not surprisingly, the Feds are slashing health coverage for refugees. The changes will take effect June 30, 2012.
The Association of Ontario Health Centres has called the decision “bad health policy” and predicts that refugees will “likely to become seriously ill, ending up in hospital beds or emergency departments”. They should know–Ontario Health Centres provide healthcare to many refugees and other marginalized populations, including people with active addiction, street-involved people, and people living with HIV and hepatitis C. The Association is mobilizing action to oppose cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, including signing a petition.
The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) has gone on record as saying that these cuts are “inhumane and unjustified”. In May, the CCR the received information confirming that refugee claimants, rejected refugee claimants and protected persons diagnosed with HIV will continue to be covered under the Interim Federal Health program. This coverage includes costs of medical consultations and prescribed medication. However, the CCR remains concerned that there will be persons who excluded from this coverage for HIV treatment (eg. persons ineligible to claim refugee status, persons with abandoned/withdrawn claims, persons eligible for the PRRA only), and that there will be no medical coverage at all for the many other serious medical needs of people living with HIV. Visit the CCR website for more info and to read their media release.
The HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario), which provides free legal services to many HIV+ refugee claimants in Ontario, is also very concerned about the cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program and the negative effects they will have on HIV+ peoples’ health. According to the legal clinic, “Refugee claimants or refused refugee claimants who receive a drug card through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW) will still be able to access prescription medications using their ODSP or OW drug card. It is the doctor’s visits and hospital visits for issues other than HIV treatment that may be affected.” If you are refugee claimant, or your refugee claim has been refused, and you have questions about how these changes will affect you, contact the legal clinic:
HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)
Phone: 416-340-7790 or toll-free in Ontario 1-888-705-8889
65 Wellesley Street East, Suite 400