Health Insurance Waiting Lists Causing Misery for Patients

March 5th, 2012
Health Insurance Waiting Lists Causing Misery for Patients

A number of provinces in Canada apparently enforce a waiting list on immigrants to get health insurance. However, this has been criticised by many people including physicians.

It seems anyone coming into the country can wait several months before they are able to access public health insurance. For instance, in Ontario this time period is 3 months.

However, critics including politicians as well as medical practitioners believe the wait is not only bureaucratic but can have devastating consequences on the health of immigrants and want it scrapped.

Recent study suggests that immigrants on the whole enter Canada healthier than Canadian citizens, but the prolonged wait to get access to medical services is causing major problems.

One of those against this imposition is Councillor Diane Holmes, chairwoman of the Ottawa Board of Health. She told reporters: “[I feel] that new immigrants who have tested positive for latent tuberculosis infection, [should] be able to receive immediate coverage from OHIP to ensure timely and effective treatment to prevent the development of active tuberculosis disease.”

Supporters of the waiting period believe there is a valid reason for it. David Jensen, spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said: “Providing an exemption from the three-month waiting period for only certain groups may raise concerns about the fair and equitable application of the Health Insurance Act to other Ontario residents who also require medical care during the waiting period for health insurance coverage.”

Other provinces that impose a waiting time on newcomers are Quebec, New Brunswick and British Columbia. Quebec does relax the imposition for cases of tuberculosis.

The Toronto Chief medical Officer of Health is also opposed to the waiting period. He said that anyone with a cough is tested for TB and treated but they are then advised to get private medical cover while they wait. But he points out financially this is not always possible ad this can consequently store up unnecessary problems.

“The three-month waiting period should be abolished,” McKeown said. “The dilemma faced by a newcomer with a bad cough is they have to decide if they’re going to wait it out, or do the right thing and get assessed.”

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