Reform of the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) for Refugees : A discriminatory social safety net, according to the FMSQ

Montreal, June 21, 2012 – Effective next June 30th, important amendments will be made to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) which is designed to provide temporary medical insurance coverage, in particular to protected persons, refugee claimants, refugees and other categories of individuals. In fact, these amendments give rise to certain questions according to the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec (FMSQ).

The reform will make the IFHP available to a smaller number of individuals. Specifically, it will no longer be available to citizens of Designated Countries of Origin (DCO). For those to whom the IFHP will still be accessible, coverage will be reduced. Although the FMSQ recognizes the federal government's prerogative to establish or tighten criteria allowing a foreign national to gain access to the IFHP, it considers the new restrictions to be discriminatory.

According to Dr. Gaétan Barrette, president of the FMSQ, "the new regulation offers basic coverage which, at first glance, seems acceptable, except when it comes to access to medication. The people most affected by the amendments to the program, who are by definition financially destitute and who currently take medication to treat a high-risk pathology, should continue to benefit from coverage after June 30, 2012. However, this will not be the case. These people will benefit from less coverage than the most destitute of Canadian citizens. The FMSQ wonders : Is Canada honouring itself by creating a class of people even more destitute than its poorest citizens ?"

The president of the FMSQ adds that "the State is submitting these people to the risk of developing complications as a result of their illness. The government's stated objective is to save money ($100 million over five years). It should in all fairness review this aspect to ensure they receive the minimal protection to which the most destitute Canadians have access. We would thus avoid having these people end up in the emergency room (and that is where they will end up), which would be even more expensive for the government."

The Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec represents more than 9000 medical specialists certified in one of 53 recognized medical specialties.