Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Federal health program ensures fairness for all

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DEAR EDITOR,

Re: They aren't all 'bogus' refugees, as portrayed by Kenney (May 17). Tom Denton's column is inflammatory and entirely misses the point to recent reforms to the interim federal health program (IFHP).

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The IFHP provides medical benefits to protected persons and refugee claimants. However, the program has gone well beyond its original purpose and costs have ballooned since the program was established in 1957.

The IFHP now provides supplemental health benefits that average taxpaying Canadians who fund these benefits do not receive. The reforms -- which eliminate funding of supplemental benefits, such as pharmaceutical care, dentistry and vision care, but continue to fund medications, immunizations and so forth when there is a risk to the general public -- are to ensure fairness for taxpayers while addressing the need to protect public health and safety.

Canadians are very generous people and Canada continues to have the most fair and generous immigration system in the world. But this government does not expect hard-working taxpayers to pay for health benefits for failed refugee claimants that they themselves do not receive.

Indeed, most Canadians do not have access to government-funded supplemental health care. These are measured changes that will stop the abuse of Canada's overburdened health-care system by asylum seekers, especially those who have already been rejected by our fair and independent refugee determination system, but will still provide necessary care for those persons who are most likely to be found to be bona fide refugees.

This is not simply about saving taxpayers $100 million; it is about treating both hard-working Canadians and legitimate refugees fairly, while cutting off benefits to those who abuse Canada's generosity.

JASON KENNEY

Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

Ottawa

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2012 A13

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