Following in the footsteps of many other provinces, Ontario, beginning in January 2014, has reinstated standard healthcare coverage for certain groups of refugees who had coverage cut by significant changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP).
Previously, refugee claimants originating from countries which are less likely to produce refugees and rejected refugee claimants were granted healthcare coverage ONLY IF it was to diagnose or treat conditions which posed a threat to the “public” (read: Canadians). This meant, for example, that pregnant women and diabetics, were not covered for their medical needs.
The new Ontario program elevates the healthcare coverage of these two groups to a level which is comparable to the services covered under OHIP, at least officially.
A paperwork nightmare
While these changes are welcome, the burden placed on healthcare service providers is substantial. For service providers to be reimbursed by the Ontario government for providing services to these groups, they are expected to do the following for every single service provided:
1) Apply to the IFHP
2) Receive the rejection of coverage from IFHP
3) Apply to the Ontario program
4) Receive reimbursement
For a healthcare system which is already understaffed and overworked, placing these procedural burdens on service providers threaten the healthcare access of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. When certain service providers decide that these submission requirements are too onerous and turn patients away, it is the refugee claimants that suffer.
While these changes do, in theory, reinstate healthcare coverage for groups whose coverage were previously restrained, the complex claims procedure risks threatening the ability of these groups to effectively access healthcare services as many healthcare providers will simply refuse to take on the paperwork burden.