Protecting Refugees’ Health: How is the Reinstated Interim Federal Health Program Working?

Publicly-funded health care for refugees and refugee claimants in Canada is provided through the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). After experiencing extensive cuts in June 2012, IFHP was restored in April 2016. There is presently limited information on how the reinstated IFHP is meeting its purported objective of, among others, protecting refugees’ and refugee claimants’ health and safety. As a step toward filling this gap in the literature, our research team conducted a pilot study in 2017 with refugee-serving practitioners in the City of Ottawa. We found the current IFHP, despite significant improvements from the years of cuts, falls short in several aspects. A legacy of confusion about the IFHP persisted among service providers, and the processes for service providers to register in and to seek reimbursement from the IFHP was seen as burdensome. Anecdotal evidence indicated that these ongoing problems were hindering IFHP beneficiaries’ timely access to quality health care.