Wednesday 19 February 2014

Free medical is not available to every Canadian citizen


Canadians living in Canada are indeed very fortunate because if they are in need of medical help, it is free with very few exceptions. For example, when I was in the hospital for two months back in 1999 and underwent a heart operation, my bill would have been at least a quarter of a million dollars. We would have lost everything including our home. But because all the costs were paid for by the province’s free medical plan, my stay at the hospital along with the tests and the operation didn’t cost my wife and I a cent. Oh, I did pay a minor charge for a phone and a small TV but nowadays, no one has to pay for the phone if they have a cell phone. Of course if you are hooked up to a monitor, you can’t use it. Every time I visit my doctor, I don’t have to pay anything. I just show him my plastic health card that has my picture on it.

There are exceptions however as to who can benefit from this free medical hospitalization etc. As an example, if you are a visitor to Canada, you can’t get it for free. If you are a Canadian citizen but live outside of Canada on a permanent basis, you are also not entitled to it. A couple in British Columbia who were Canadian citizens and lived in another country, couldn’t get it. This article is about them and why they were refused.

Their names were Sayed Geissah and Souad Khalaf who were married to one another and they immigrated to British Columbia in September of 1994 with their three sons. Sometime around 2002 the sons moved, and now work and live in Egypt, Dubai, and Qatar; and Mr. Geissah and Ms. Khalaf claimed to spend six months each year visiting their sons and grandchildren and the remainder of each year in British Columbia.

 If they were telling the truth about spending six months of every year in British Columbia, they would be eligible for free medical treatment etc. To qualify, all they had to do was provide copies of their travel documents such as their passports that would show when they left Canada and when they returned.

They refused to give the Medical Services Commission access to their travel records.  Based, in part, on the timing of their Medical Services Plan (MSP)  claims—there were no claims in 2004 and 2005, and infrequent claims in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010—an official in the Commission was not satisfied they had established, on a balance of probabilities, that they had made their home in British Columbia between 2002 and April 2010, or had been physically present in British Columbia for six months out of every calendar year between 2002 and 2010. They made their claims between those eight years but the MSP presumed that they were still living in the Middle East where their permanent home was located. For this reason, they were denied coverage because the official was not convinced that they had been living in Canada for a period of at least six months during each of those eight years.                             

The couple took the matter to one of the Superior Courts in B.C. and lost. Then they appealed to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

 In their argument for coverage, they stated that (a) there was no contract between them and the Commission or the MSP because their original enrollment form has been destroyed; (b) they had no knowledge of the residency requirement; (c) on the evidence it would be unreasonable to assume they had been out of the country; (d) their travel information was irrelevant; (e) they must be residents because they receive federal Old Age Security; (f) they are deemed residents under the applicable regulations because they are neither tourists nor visitors; and (g) it is not lawful to force them to live in British Columbia for more than six months each year as they could not afford to do so.

Let me say from the get go, the fact that they didn’t have any knowledge that they had to live in Canada for at least six months of the year to qualify is hogwash. Who cares? Ignorance of the law is never an excuse. To suggest that their travel information is irrelevant just makes the hogwash even more unpalatable. They knew that their passports would give them away. And the fact that they were receiving their Old Age Security cheques is immaterial. My mother had a dual citizenship with Canada and the United States and she spent the last 52 years of her life in the United States and she still was permitted to receive her Canadian Old Age Security cheques along with her American Old Age Security cheques. She couldn’t enjoy the benefits of the British Columbia MSP of course because she didn’t live in B.C. And where the hogwash becomes totally unpalatable is their belief that they didn’t have to remain living outside of Canada because it was too expensive to live in B.C. Hey, Stupid Ones. You could have moved to another province. Oh, of course. Your sons and grandchildren didn’t live in other provinces and that is the real reason why you chose to live in the Middle East instead of Canada. 
Now they did submit some more arguments that weren’t quite the same as those just given. They argued that it was it was unreasonable to expect them to retain useful evidence such as residency requirements needed to benefit from the free medical treatment. That is not a satisfactory excuse. They could have made enquiries. When I travel to various countries around the world, I buy travel insurance because I know that my free medical plan isn’t going to cover me if I travel outside of Canada.  
They argued that the Medicare Protection Act is no longer in force.  That argument is irrelevant. It was in force when they applied for free medical treatment. 

They further argued that there was no contract between them and the Commission or the MSP. Of course there wasn’t a contract between them. The service is free. There are stipulations however as to whether or not they can receive the benefits and what benefits they could receive. It was their failure to enquire about those stipulations before they deserted Canada. That is what I made enquiries on my own behalf when I began traveling around the world. The Commission told me the benefits are extremely limited outside Canada and that I had better take out travel insurance; which I did.

They even argued that since they still were Canadian citizens, they were automatically guaranteed those benefits they had been denied. Being a Canadian citizen does offer great benefits to its citizens but if a particular law is in force and in that law, there are restrictions that will take effect and it is because of those stipulations, one cannot assume that on the basis of being a Canadian citizen, those stipulations don’t apply. That argument is such putrid hogwash; it would make a pig vomit.                                                                             

And finally they argued (brace yourself for it) the government is wasting taxpayer money by investigating this matter.  If anyone was wasting their money, it was this stupid couple who paid their equally stupid lawyer to represent them and present such feeble arguments in the first place.

In terms of relief, Mr. Geissah and Ms. Khalaf sought:  (a) an order setting aside the decision finding them ineligible for benefits; (b) unspecified damages flowing from the effects of the decision; and (c) costs.

Reasons for Judgment of the Honourable Mr. Justice Frankel


“In seeking judicial review, Mr. Geissah and Ms. Khalaf relied on many of the submissions they made to the delegate (official at Medical Services Commission). I find no merit in any of the arguments advanced by Mr. Geissah and Ms. Khalaf.  The critical question is whether the delegate could properly come to the conclusion that entitlement (i.e., residency) had not been established on a balance of probabilities. The second complaint relates to whether the MSP will seek to recover from Mr. Geissah and Ms. Khalaf the costs of the medical services it paid for during the ineligibility period.  Counsel for the Commission, Mr. Butler, advised the Court that his client has taken the decision not to seek recovery. As the Commission does not seek costs, I would make no order in that regard.” unquote

These two people erroneously benefitted from their mistaken belief that they were covered for their medical expenses. This came about first because they mistakenly believed that they were eligible beneficiaries of the medical plan when they were not covered and because the people operating the plan didn’t catch on that these two Canadian citizens people weren’t living in Canada anymore.  That shouldn’t be a problem for the people who operate the plan if the people seeking the benefits aren’t receiving them in Canada.


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