Health Care Demanded for Child Refugees
(CN) - Denying universal health insurance coverage to refugee children violates Canada's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an advocacy group claims in court.
Justice for Children and Youth, a Toronto-based nonprofit, sued the Canadian Attorney General and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, in Toronto Federal Court.
Justice for Children claims Canada's decision to make "drastic cuts" in a program for refugees and refuge-seekers violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international law.
Cuts to the "Interim Federal Health Program" were made without warning or consultation, Justice for Children says in its complaint, or application.
"Under the new IFHP, insurance coverage for child refugees and refugee claimants is no longer universal and uniform," the application states. "Coverage is now based on a classification system that allocates health care according to a hierarchy of putative merit."
The changes to the program in June 2012 caused "a great deal of confusion among health care providers as to what was covered by the IFHP and who was eligible," the application states.
Doctors and clinics began turning away refugees seeking health services or demanding payment upfront for services covered by the program, Justice for Children claims.
"The changes to the IFHP have had a particularly severe impact on children," the application states. "A lack of adequate pre-natal care can have an adverse impact after birth, and reacting in a timely manner to children's health issues can have a significant impact on their long term health and well being."
Denying or delaying care for children may cost more than providing insurance, because "providing care at a hospital is far more costly than providing insurance coverage for preventative care," according to the application.
"Even in the United States, which does not have a publicly funded universal health care system for citizens, provides health insurance for child asylum seekers," the application states.
Justice for Children and Youth want the changes to the program quashed. The group is represented by Emily Chan in Toronto.
The program changes were challenged in court in March, by legal and medical organizations.