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‘A huge barrier for newcomers’: Universality of B.C.’s health care questioned

March 17, 2023

Imagine you have a newborn, delivered in a B.C. hospital, and you face a bill for thousands of dollars.

It’s not supposed to happen, not with universal health care, but as many immigrants arriving in B.C. have discovered, so-called universal coverage does not apply to them because they face a three-month wait before they are eligible for the province’s Medical Services Plan (MSP).

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“I had a patient who was pregnant and she couldn’t wait three months to get health care. She had her baby and she got a large bill to pay,” said Wazhma Wakil, who from 2012 to 2022 helped refugees and immigrants upon their arrival in Canada through health-care and settlement organizations.

“Her baby was healthy,” said Wakil, who lives in Surrey and is pursuing a master’s degree in science at SFU.

“But sometimes the babies develop problems, and yes, there are very large bills — $10,000, $15,000, even more. It depends on how many times they went to see the doctor or needed lab work, or if they’ve stayed in hospital.”

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