2.C Settlement and Integration
C.5 How are physical, mental, and dental health treated?
(iii) Who is responsible for covering the costs of healthcare services for refugees?
How Canada Does It
As permanent residents, refugees are eligible for provincial healthcare coverage upon their arrival in Canada. Refugees can apply for provincial coverage immediately after arrival. In addition, the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) is funded by Canada and provides limited temporary coverage of healthcare benefits – basic, supplemental, and prescription drug coverage – to all resettled refugees when they arrive in Canada. This coverage serves as a bridge to provincial/territorial public health insurance plans.
As permanent residents, refugees are eligible for provincial healthcare coverage upon their arrival in Canada. Refugees can apply for provincial coverage immediately after arrival.
Since 1 April 2016, the IFHP provides basic coverage to resettled refugees until the beneficiary qualifies for provincial or territorial health insurance and up to a maximum of three months. Basic coverage includes services from medical doctors, registered nurses, hospital care in addition to laboratory, diagnostic, and ambulance services. On 1 April 2017, the IFHP was expanded to include certain pre-departure medical services for refugees selected for resettlement to Canada prior to their arrival. The scope of pre-departure medical services include: the cost of the Immigration Medical Exam and follow-up treatment for diseases affecting a refugee’s admissibility to Canada; voluntary vaccinations; services to manage outbreaks of communicable diseases; and certain medical support and devices that refugees with medical conditions require for safe travel to Canada.
Supplemental and prescription drug coverage is provided to resettled refugees for as long as the refugee is under government or private sponsorship, with initial coverage being issued for twelve months upon arrival. This coverage may be extended for an additional twelve months, provided the refugee is receiving government or private sponsorship for the same period. Supplemental coverage includes services such as mental health coverage, limited vision care, urgent dental care, prescription drugs, assistive devices, and some medical equipment.
Resettled refugees are provided with an IFHP Certificate of Eligibility by the Canada Border Services Agency upon arrival in Canada at the port of entry. Where an IFHP Certificate of Eligibility cannot be provided on arrival, coverage should be issued by an immigration officer shortly after arrival. The IFHP’s pre-departure, basic, and supplemental benefits are subject to maximum monetary limits.
Sponsors are not expected to pay for additional healthcare costs that are not covered by government schemes. However, often sponsors are able to recruit dentists and opticians in their communities to provide pro bono services to cover the costs of medication, glasses, dental work, etc. not covered by government schemes. Some sponsors either contribute financially even though they are not required to, or advocate to find other ways to get what is needed for the refugees. For example, the organization Canadian Dentists for Refugees formed in response to the Syrian crisis to connect refugees with free dental services across Canada.
Refugees may also be able to access free or low cost non-urgent dental care based on age or household income. Programs are subsidized by provinces or municipal governments through local public health units or community health clinics. Similarly, refugees may be eligible for subsidized drug benefit plans based on net household income, age and nature of disease or illness.