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CMA welcomes new government stance on refugee health care

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is encouraged by recent comments from newly appointed Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum stating his government will move quickly to reinstate healthcare coverage for refugees.

“We applaud McCallum’s recent comments and strongly encourage the federal government to act swiftly to remedy the situation,” said CMA President Cindy Forbes.

During the recent election campaign, the CMA once again raised the need to restore coverage for all refugees that had been limited by changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) in 2012. It has not been fully restored despite a 2014 federal court decision rejecting the cuts.

In media interviews, McCallum stated one of his first priorities would be to reverse the cuts which continue to limit full healthcare coverage for privately sponsored refugees.

“We’re restoring refugee healthcare,” he said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period.

He said changes will be implemented “as quickly as possible but not overnight,” stating that the move would be dependent on the timetable for the new Parliament. He predicted the changes would be made “in a few months, if not a few weeks.”

“This is a no-brainer — we will restore it (the IFHP).”

McCallum noted that in addition to causing “huge hardships” for a number of people, the cuts did not save any money because those refugees needing care presented to emergency rooms and hospitals “and the cost of that is greater than the cost of what they would have received alternatively.”

The CMA is one of several medical and legal groups that have called for the reversal of cuts since changes to the IFHP were first announced in April 2012.

Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care – one of the leading groups opposing the actions of the previous government – also called McCallum’s comments “encouraging.” In a tweet, the organization said it’s now up to the Liberal government to follow through on the promise.

In an editorial in the Toronto Star prior to McCallum’s comments, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care noted “all it would take is a cabinet order (known as an order-in-council) to restore compassion and decency to Canada’s refugee system.”

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