Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kenney's bogus stats on refugee health care

Jason Kenney has come out with some stats on refugee claimants from 'safe' countries and the cost of their using Canadian health care. They will likely come off as sounding high and will serve the political purpose of getting the usual base riled up, but they need to be considered more carefully. Here is what his office is serving up:
Between Jan. 17 and Dec. 31, 2011, 8,819 Mexicans racked up nearly $7 million in health care costs under the Interim Federal Health Program. Some 6,749 Hungarians charged more than $4.4 million, while 4,583 Columbians racked up more than $2.6 million in costs. Meanwhile, 3,790 Americans received more than $1.4 million in free health care. Jamaican claimants round out the top five with 809 health care users receiving more than $808,000 worth of health services.
So, first off, Kenney's office has selected to show us the stats from the above four countries, to the exclusion of other countries whose stats may make the numbers look not so bad at all. But his office has the numbers and this is what they are choosing to release. Why, for example, do they not include the stats from Haiti and China and Nigeria who have high claimant numbers and higher rates of acceptance? Are those figures more positive? See this 2011 chart (click to enlarge):

Another point, while the Conservative government seeks to characterize nations like Hungary as a "safe" country, that choice has been disputed. See Amnesty International on the Hungarian Roma refugees as well.

Further, even if you break down those Kenney numbers by doing the simple division, it's not clear at all that they support so-called abuse. Does $651 in 2011 per Hungarian refugee sound high to you? What about $567 for a Colombian refugee? And so on with all the countries. What is the average Canadian's health care usage? I don't know but Canada's per capita spending on the average Canadian was $5,800 in 2011.

As for Kenney's relating of "stories" he's heard, later on in that Gazette report, that seems unsubstantiated hearsay and it should be considered as such. He even admits, "It's hard for us to quantify exactly how many false asylum claimants have come because of pull factors like the Interim Federal Health Program, but we shouldn't be naive...." Nor should we Canadians about the information he presents us.

There's a very basic point to be made about what Kenney's office is doing here as well. You could argue that these stats could always be framed as abuses of the system. That is, in the sense that there will inherently be more claims than acceptances in our system. So any time you report the health care dollars spent on those who have claimed refugee status but have been rejected will look wasteful to those seeking ammunition.

That's not the point though. This is not just about dollars, it is a moral argument about Canadian values. We as Canadians have chosen, for years now, to say that we will provide basic health care needs to refugees. Until they have been adjudged, we care for them. Because they are fleeing nations in dire circumstances and until they have been adjudged, as the least among us, we care for them. At least, we used to care for them until the Harper majority occurred.