Canadian student loses health coverage for years in forest of red tape

by Ryan Smith06 Jul 2016
A Canadian student found herself without health coverage for years as she navigated a jungle of bureaucratic red tape.

Madeleine Anderson, 20, lived most of her life in Ottawa, according to the Brantford Expositor. But she found herself without coverage after her family moved to Ontario in 2014 – and she moved to New Brunswick to go to university only a short time later.

The Canada Health Act is federal law, but each province has its own set of regulations, according to the Expositor. Those varying regulations made getting coverage a nightmare for Anderson.

New Brunswick, where she moved to study at Mount Allison University, requires students to be covered by their home province. But Anderson’s Quebec coverage had already been cut off – and she hadn’t lived the required 153 days in Ontario before moving to New Brunswick for school, the Expositor reported.

The upshot: Anderson didn’t have insurance anywhere. Her father had to take out private insurance of the sort that covers foreign students – but that only covered her while she was at school, the Expositor reported.

Anderson, her mother, Lynne, and her stepfather, Andrew Tomec, spent nearly two years fighting various bureaucracies to get her covered. They applied to the OHIP Eligibility Review Committee, but were denied, according to the Expositor.

“It was a really frustrating bureaucratic runaround,” Tomec told the paper. “We had one door after another slammed in our faces.”

Finally, after a June 2 hearing, the Health Services Appeal Review Board ruled that Anderson was qualified for OHIP because her Quebec insurance was still active at the time she moved to Ontario – exempting her from the 153-day residency requirement. But while Anderson is finally covered, her situation isn’t uncommon.

Students, many of whom change addresses frequently, often fall through the cracks of the healthcare system, Bilan Arte, national chair of the Canadian Students Federation, told the Expositor.

“In many ways, bureaucracies don’t accommodate to changing addresses often,” Arte said. “We need our government agencies to understand that there’s a particular nature to student lifestyles, including having addresses that fluctuate. We need access to healthcare.”

Related stories:
Ontario privacy commission orders disclosure of names on OHIP billings
$30k ambulance bill exposes coverage gap