Canadian children being denied free healthcare

An investigation by a province’s ombudsman has revealed some worrying facts

Canadian children being denied free healthcare

Children born in Québec to parents with a precarious migratory status are being deprived of free healthcare.

That’s the finding of a new report released by the Québec Ombudsman, who conducted an investigation to find out why some children are not receiving care under the Québec Health Insurance Plan even though they’re Canadian citizens. Even under Quebec law, and its Health Insurance Act and the Regulation respecting eligibility and registration of persons in respect of the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec, Canadian born children are not getting the care they need.

“By excluding these children from the public health insurance plan, the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) runs the risk of depriving them of the healthcare and social services they need in order to develop," said Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret.

As the Ombudsman’s report illustrated, this group of children are being denied their right to free health coverage because RAMQ automatically correlates their eligibility with their parents' migratory status. “This means that these children could be deprived of the health services and social services they need if their parents cannot afford the cost thereof,” the Ombusman’s report said. “The consequences can be physical as well as psychological and can hinder the children’s integration within school and the community.”

According to the Québec Ombudsman, the Act and the Regulation enable them to be considered eligible from birth if they are settled in Québec and live in Québec for least 183 days in a 12 month period. The Ombudsman also said that, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by Canada and endorsed by province, every child has the right to have free access to healthcare.

“The Québec Ombudsman understands that RAMQ exercises all due caution to ensure that free healthcare is reserved for the people who qualify,” the Ombusman’s report said. “It feels that the Act and the Regulation provide RAMQ with the instruments needed to counter abuse. The fact of reviewing the eligibility of the children concerned does not hamper monitoring by RAMQ in any way.”

“The Québec Ombudsman considers that the solution lies in applying the Act as written because the legislation makes it clear that the eligibility for the public health plan of children born in Québec and settled in Québec must have nothing to do with their parents' migratory status.”