Refugee Health Care Cuts In Canada: System Level Costs, Risks and Responses

Executive summary

When reforms to the Interim Federal Health (IFH) program were announced, health care providers raised a number of concerns about the significant reduction in access to health care services for most refugees and claimants. This research study documents how four key fears of health care providers have been realized since the cuts took effect. First, a complicated framework of coverage produces administrative burdens for health care providers that can lead to denial of care even when refugees have valid IFH coverage. In addition, there has been increased use of emergency rooms for conditions that could have been more effectively treated through primary care and the Designated Country of Origin (DCO) list has created a class of refugee claimants who have virtually no access to health care services. Last, health care access for vulnerable refugee groups, including pregnant women, who only have coverage if they have a condition that poses a public health risk, has been reduced resulting in increased risk and complications for patients.


Strong evidence suggests that compared to other groups, refugees have poorer health due to their experience of displacement and the difficult resettlement process. The compounding effects of these experiences can lead to compromised physical and mental health. In addition, settlement barriers to employment, language barriers and other social determinants of health create a situation where health is negatively impacted. This report’s findings show that a standard approach for serving uninsured and under-insured refugee patients and efficiently managing the administrative complexities of the IFH is absent. To ensure that refugees who need to access health care don’t fall through the cracks this report highlights several opportunities for action.

The full report can be dowloaded from the link below.

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