Hi Faithful Follower,
I try to keep this blog light and fluffy, but I am seriously mad. Sure, I’m mad that few people know this is an issue but I’m God damn furious with the Canadian Government. Why? Recent changes to refugee health care.
The back story
In April, Jason Kenney, noted asshole and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, announced cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). This is the health program that refugees and refugee claimants in Canada and provides them with access to the same healthcare you and I are entitled to.
Minister Kenney said the free ride was over for these “leeches” on the system because Canadians aren’t entitled to the same “luxurious” secondary healthcare benefits included in the IFHP, like dental and eye care and must seek private care for them (which is another story because I still think it’s a sham that these two aren’t covered under the healthcare act, but I digress). Let’s keep in mind that these are the very refugees that our own government selected for immigration.
By getting these refugees, who are here legally, off of Canada’s healthcare bills, Kenney was thrilled to announce that the budget for IFHP would save Canadian tax payers $20 million a year. $20 million? I guess if you keep giving corporate tax cuts at ridiculously high rates (with little success at stimulating our economy but, again, that’s another matter), the best way to balance the books is on the backs of the most vulnerable population in Canada.
I’m not a refugee, and chances are you aren’t either so why should you care about cuts to refugee health care? Let’s see…
If you’re Canadian and you believe that one of the tenants of our social fabric is access to quality health care, you should care.
Healthcare in Canada is a complicated thing. But I think it’s one the things that makes ours a distinct and proud society. Cuts like these erode the legitimacy and the credibility of our healthcare system.
If you believe that those who have been forced to flee their countries for reasons of war, persecution and strife deserve a fresh and equal start, you should care.
It is insulting to us, a nation founded by immigrants and refugees, to have Minister Kenney portray those seeking refuge as freeloaders or “bogus” claimants.
Refugees are one of the most vulnerable populations in this country and I’m pretty sure the Canadian government wasn’t elected to make their arrival here more difficult than it already is.
I was talking to my friend Ivana* this weekend on our way to yoga, because, you know, we’re yuppies. Ivana was a refugee from Bosnia and fled the country during the civil war. Landing in Ottawa with her family, starting school, learning a new language, going to university, getting a fancy and successful job (and with that job paying her share of taxes). Ivana and her family are a testament to why Canada brings refugees to our country.
Now, I am not naïve enough to think that every refugee family is as successful or legitimate as Ivana’s, but if the Canadian government accepts their refugee claim and they are legally here, why not give them a step up as they try to make sense of their new reality.
I know there are refugee claimants that are bogus. But that’s a legal issue. Not a medical one.
*Not her real name and she is definitely not Donald Trump’s ex-wife.
If you think doctors know more about medical care than politicians, you should care.
Listen, I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV (or at least no longer as my character on Grey’s Anatomy was killed off in a freak gasoline fight accident). But I do think that doctors are usually better sources of information of what is good for your health compared to politicians, because, you know, it’s their job and politicians serve a different, less life saving, purpose.
Many national health care groups have written to Jason Kenney to register their opposition of the cuts to IFHP including:
The Canadian Medical Association
The Canadian Nurses Association
The Canadian Dental Association
The Canadian Pharmacists Association
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Huh, well that seems like a pretty all encompassing list of front line healthcare professionals who would be personally dealing and treating the fallout from these cuts.
Minister Kenney’s response? ***Crickets***
If you pay tax dollars and think they should be spent in a responsible and cost-efficient way, you should care.
Listen, I am not a tax-and-spend type of girl. In fact, fiscal responsibility in government is important to me. However, if you don’t treat acute illnesses and conditions the consequences can be drastic and mega $$$ pricey.
Consider some of the cases that Canadian Doctors For Refugee Care have amassed in the past three months since the cuts have been effective.
Among others, there was a woman whose asthma required emergency hospitalization from an attack due to a lack of (really quite cheap) medication, a woman whose diabetes quickly deteriorated as she was unable to afford insulin or those with chest pain unable to receive and kids who are unable to start school due to them not being fully vaccinated and unable to afford the vaccinations.
There are many more, but it boils down to treatable conditions or diseases becoming unmanageable due to a lack of medicine or care. Primary healthcare, such as what your family doctor provides, is cost effective. Secondary, such as emergency care, is expensive. So why not reduce the costs bore on our healthcare system and help refugees avoid costly visits to emergency rooms (which oddly enough are covered in some cases under IFHP) by providing medicine and care prior to conditions or diseases spiraling out of control?
Winter is coming. People will get sick. “People” obviously includes refugees. Yes, the government is set to “save” $20 million with these cuts. But how much will be transferred to the healthcare system in light of the changes? Only time will tell but common sense says more than that “saved” by the cuts.
If you care about your own health, you should care.
Cuts to the IFHP have resulted in newly arrived refugee claimants being denied health insurance upon their arrival in Canada. As a result , these claimants aren’t able to access care after arriving from areas where they might have been exposed to many health risks.
In fact, our BFF Minister Kenney thinks that the mandatory doctor visit that newly landed refugees is “more preventative health care than most Canadians receives on a regular basis.” This would be the checkup that would screen for tuberculosis, intestinal worms and a whole myriad of other ailments that may be communicable. Yep, Kenney is comparing those tests to the annual check-up you get from your doctor.
Included in the cases that Canadian Doctors for Refugee Health provided was one of a man who presented symptoms consistent with TB. Guess what? He was denied coverage for a lung x-ray.
Caveat: The provincial governments in Manitoba and Quebec have said they will make up for the short fall in funding for the IFHP. Good on them. That’s great for refugees living in those provinces. But it shouldn’t be up to provincial governments to cover the costs. They didn’t sponsor these refugees, the federal government did and thus must be held accountable for their decisions. (Ooo… accountability in government? What a concept!)
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. But it doesn’t mean I’ll be quite about this issue and I hope I’ve motivated you to do something about it.