Monday, 4 May 2020

Letter to Selina Robinson, Minister of Housing and Shayne Ramsay, CEO of BC Housing

Today Sanctuary Health sent the following letter to Selina Robinson, Minister of Housing and Shayne Ramsay, CEO of BC Housing:

Dear Selina Robinson and Shayne Ramsay,

Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that organizes with people with precarious immigration status--especially women of colour and children--to push for access to all services regardless of immigration status. We are writing to request support from the provincial government for families with precarious or no immigration status in BC who have lost work due to COVID 19, and are at risk of becoming homeless.

Families with precarious or no immigration status are excluded from both federal support (including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the GST/HST Credit Payment or the Canada Child Benefit) and provincial support (including the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, BC Temporary Rental Supplement Program, the BC Climate Action Tax Credit). Many are unable to pay rent, and are being threatened and exploited by landlords. Landlords are demanding money that families simply do not have, and we are afraid that they will exploit the families’ immigration status to circumvent the eviction moratorium.

One mother in this position shares: “My biggest fear is that we are going to end up on the street, us and our two kids,” she said. “People like us, working in construction or cleaning, we are essential workers. Help in this crisis must be universal.”

The right to housing is an essential human right that should be recognized regardless of immigration status. Without financial support, people with precarious immigration status will not be able to ‘stay home’ or ‘social distance.’ Our health is interconnected - the protection of public health requires supporting all communities to be able to follow the PHO’s guidelines.

The BC Government already has programs in place, like BC Housing’s Homeless Prevention Program, that provide accessible housing support for at risk populations through community organizations who have relationships with them. We are urgently requesting that the BC Government include individuals with precarious or no immigrations status when planning support for at risk populations.

Sanctuary Health has fundraised through GoFundMe to provide food to 90 families every week, and we are partnering with Watari Counselling and Support Services Society to try to further fundraise for the upcoming rent crisis. We are also working with the Migrant Rights Network to advocate for policy change at the federal level. Despite our best efforts, this community response will not be enough to prevent homelessness without the support from the provincial government.

We are requesting to meet with you to further discuss the urgent needs of this community that we support, and strategies for how the Government of BC can address these needs.

Sincerely,

Sanctuary Health

Thursday, 26 March 2020

UPDATE: Current Government Responses to Access to Health During COVID-19

If you have any issues with the government acting contrary to the guidelines below, please email sanctuaryhealthvancouver@gmail.com so that we can help fight with you.

English is below

Comunidad La Vida es Lucha


El Colectivo Santuario ha mantenido conversaciones con el gobierno provincial de BC para buscarle solucion a las demandas de acceso a la salud de las personas con estatus migratorio precario o sin estatus.

Estas son algunas preguntas con respuestas respecto a como se respondera con el acceso a atencion medica durante esta epoca de pandemia de COVID-19.  Estasrespuestas fueron tomadas directamente del sitio web del gobierno, por lo quetodavía estamos aprendiendo cómo se implementarán. Haremos todo lo posible paraactualizar a medida que aprendamos más.

Le informaremos en cuanto tengamos mas avances en la lucha por el acceso a la salud para todxs.

1.-Que pasa si mi permiso temporal ya no es válido y ya no califico para tener seguro médico (Medical Service Plan - MSP)?


Como respuesta a la crisis del COVID-19 las personas que viven en British Columbia y que estaban cubiertas previamente por MSP pero su MSP ya no es válido tendrán cobertura temporal.
Las personas deben contactar al seugro médico de BC (Health Insurance BC) para solicitar la cobertura temporal. [El gobierno ha confirmado que esto solo se aplica a aquellos cuya cobertura expira está relacionada con la crisis actual].


Health Insurance BC
LLama sin costo: 1 800 663-7100 Si vives en el Lower Mainland: 604 683-7151
Dirección de correo: Health Insurance BC PO Box 9035 Stn Prov Gov Victoria, BC V8W 9E3

Esto incluye a las personas que han aplicado por un nuevo permiso de trabajo ó de estudio y que aún lo han recibido.


2.-Que pasa si no soy eligible para la BC MSP y pienso que tengo COVID-19, tengo que pagar por mi tratamiento.?


Si se le ha informado o considera que es necesario buscar atencion medica professional por los sintomas relacionados con COVID-19 y no tiene coverture de Seguro privado, se le puede proporcionar cobertura de atencion medica MSP a usted y a los miembros de su familia.

En respuesta a la pandemia de COVID-19 las personas que viven en la provincia de BC quienes no son elegibles para la cobertura de MSP o tarjeta medica, recibiran cobertura de atencion medica asegurada provincialmente para casos con servicios relacionados con casos sospechosos o confirmados de infeccion de COVID-19. Tomar nota que affeciones no relacionadas con COVID-19 permaneceran sin Seguro.

El medico o especialsita que le trate sera el responsible de determiner su elegibilidad para esta cobertura.

3.-Que pasa si soy un trabajador temporal que ha venida a la provincial de BC para trabajar durante la pandemia de COVID-19, podria ser asegurado por el MSP?


Los trabajadores temporales en BC con un permiso de menos de 6 meses que de otro modo no serian elegibles para la cobertura del MSP, recibiran cobertura temporal de MSP hasta el 31 de Julio del 2020 o hasta cuando expire su permiso, lo que suceda antes.

Las personas deben contactarse con Health Insurance BC para solicitar la cobertura temporal
Health Insurance BC
LLama sin costo: 1 800 663-7100 Si vives en el Lower Mainland: 604 683-7151
Dirección de correo: Health Insurance BC PO Box 9035 Stn Prov Gov Victoria, BC V8W 9E3

4.-Medical Services Plan - Renuncia al período de espera

El período de espera de tres meses del MSP no se aplicará a las personas elegibles a partir del 1 de marzo de 2020. 
Sanctuary Health has been talking to the provincial government of BC to ask for a solution to the demands for access to health of people with precarious immigration status or without status.

Here are some questions with the government's current answers as to how access to medical attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. These answers are taken directly from the government website, so we are still learning how they will be implemented. We will do our best to update as we learn more.

We will inform you as soon as we have more progress in the fight for access to health for all. Click this link for the latest information from the government: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/health-drug-coverage/msp/bc-residents/msp-covid-19-response

 

What if my temporary permits have expired and I no longer have MSP coverage?


In response to COVID-19, individuals who are currently in B.C., who were previously enrolled in MSP as a deemed resident, and their MSP has expired, may be provided temporary MSP coverage.
Individuals should contact Health Insurance BC to request this temporary coverage. [The government has confirmed that this only applies to those who's coverage expiring is connected to the current crisis.]


Health Insurance BC
Toll-free: 1 800 663-7100
Lower Mainland: 604 683-7151
Mailing Address:
Health Insurance BC
PO Box 9035 Stn Prov Gov
Victoria, BC V8W 9E3

This may include individuals who have applied for a new work or study permit but it has yet to arrive.

In these circumstances temporary coverage will be granted until July 31, 2020.

What if I am not eligible for the B.C. MSP and I think I have COVID-19, will I have to pay for my treatment?


If you have questions about your or a family members’ health related to COVID-19 symptoms or other medical issues, please contact Healthlink BC at 8-1-1.

If you have been advised or feel it is necessary to seek additional care from a medical professional for symptoms related to COVID-19, and you do not have private insurance coverage, provincially insured MSP health care coverage may be provided to you or your family members.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals present in B.C. who would otherwise not be eligible for coverage under MSP will be provided provincially insured health care coverage for services related to suspected or confirmed cases of infection with COVID-19. Services for unrelated conditions that are performed on non-eligible MSP patients will remain uninsured.

Your attending medical professional will be responsible for determining your eligibility for this coverage.

 I am a temporary foreign worker who has come to B.C. to work during the COVID-19 pandemic; can I be insured under the MSP?


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary foreign workers in BC with a permit of less than 6 months, who would otherwise not be eligible for coverage under the MSP, will be provided temporary MSP coverage to July 31, 2020 or the end of your permit, whichever is sooner.
Individuals should contact Health Insurance BC to request this temporary coverage.
Health Insurance BC
Toll-free: 1 800 663-7100
Lower Mainland: 604 683-7151

Medical Services Plan – Waiver of Wait Period

The three-month MSP coverage wait period will be waived for eligible individuals effective March 1, 2020.

Friday, 20 March 2020

MEDIA RELEASE: Sanctuary Health and community partners call in British Columbia to waive the three-month wait and provide health coverage for uninsured people

Vancouver ---  This afternoon, the Ontario government announced that they are waiving the three-month waiting period for Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage and will cover the cost of COVID-19 services for uninsured people who do not meet the criteria for OHIP coverage. In wake of the ever progressing pandemic, Sanctuary Health and community partners in British Columbia are calling on their government to do the same.

Before today’s announcement, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec were the only provinces that enforced a three month wait period for people arriving or returning from outside of Canada. This practice has been a longstanding concern of Sanctuary Health as it disproportionately affects vulnerable communities. Yesterday, BC’s Medical Services Commission announced that they will waive the Coverage Wait Period for those who are returning from impacted areas and intend to stay in BC and for those that were outside of the province for longer than the allowable period to maintain MSP Coverage. This leaves important members of our community wondering if they’ve been forgotten, including:
  • Canadian babies born to parents without MSP coverage
  • Migrant workers who arrived just before the borders closed or potentially who may start arriving in groups soon
  • Newly arrived permanent residents in British Columbia
  • People who have lived in British Columbia for many years and have finally obtained permanent residence.
“We are hoping that BC will make a clear statement as Ontario has today. It would be unconscionable that in a public health crisis, if valuable members of our community would be left without health coverage,” says Omar Chu of Sanctuary Health. “The three month wait never made sense, and we are seeing the consequences of it now.”

The wait period places individuals in a limbo period, forcing them to delay seeking care until coverage is received, placing them and the broader community at risk. Sanctuary Health recently presented the Medical Services Commission a package advocating for the removal of the wait period for all new and returning BC residents coming from outside of Canada, and for ensuring access to care upon arrival. The package had support letters from over 25 organizations including health care providers, unions representing health care workers, human rights organizations, and migrant groups.

Sanctuary Health’s call to remove the wait period is a part of our broader push for access without fear – regardless of immigration status – to free, universal, and expanded healthcare. This call includes people who are undocumented, navigating the bureaucratic immigration system, international students, and people with implied status. In July 2017, the government began denying MSP coverage to people with implied status: people who applied for new work or study permits before the expiry of their previous work or study permits and are legally entitled to live and work or study in Canada.

“The current pandemic has broadly revealed what we have been arguing since we started,” Chu says. “Health care is a human right and a just society ensures that we all have it.”

Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that deploys a wide range of strategies to advocate for access to services for all regardless of immigration status or documentation. Read the full Three Month Wait package at http://www.sanctuarycityvan.com/three-month-wait/

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Call to end the 3 Month Wait

Update: The government has announced that the three-month MSP coverage wait period will be waived for eligible individuals effective March 1, 2020. This temporary waiver is in place until July 31, 2020. This waiver shows both that it’s possible and beneficial to public health to remove the wait period. As a community, let’s continue to demand the complete removal of the wait period and expanding full health coverage for all!
 
Before the COVID-19 crisis, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec were the only provinces that deny three months of health coverage to people arriving or returning from outside of Canada. This exclusionary wait period prevents new immigrants, temporary foreign workers, returning Canadians and even some newborn Canadian babies from receiving health care coverage.

The three month wait period places individuals in a limbo period and forces them to delay seeking care until coverage is received. This is  evidenced in the increased physician billing rates in the fourth month after an immigrant’s arrival. The delay in seeking appropriate and adequate health care  results in poorer health outcomes and increased costs as individuals run the risk of developing more complex health concerns, which places a greater burden on our health care system.

The three month wait period was a policy decided on by the Medical Services Commission and they have the power to change it. Sanctuary Health sent the following package to the Medical Services Commission requesting that they take action to end the three month wait. We also requested an opportunity for Sanctuary Health to present to them about the impacts of the current policy and why it should be changed.