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Ontario Temporary Health Program

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario Temporary Health Program

Ministry of Health

The Ontario Temporary Health Program (OTHP) will provide access to essential and urgent health care, as well as medications coverage to refugee claimants living in Ontario, regardless of the status of their claim or the country they are from.  

The program addresses gaps created by cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program that resulted in different refugee claimant groups receiving varied health care coverage, leaving many with only very limited public health and public safety coverage.

Ontario will continue to call on the federal government to live up to its responsibilities to provide health coverage for all refugee claimants, and will send them the bill to pay for the OTHP.


Effective Jan. 1, 2014, services to be covered by the OTHP include:

  • Most hospital, primary, specialist, laboratory, and diagnostic services provided in Ontario.
  • Medications consistent with the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) formulary.  Eligibility would be subject to income testing.


The OTHP will provide interim health coverage for the following refugee claimant groups:

  • Refugee claimants who are not from a country identified on the federal Designated Country of Origin list, whose claims are still pending and who are living in Ontario.
  • Refugee claimants who are from a Designated Country of Origin, whose claims are still pending (including any appeals or reviews), and who are living in Ontario.
  • Rejected refugee claimants living in Ontario, only until their deportation date.
  • Privately-sponsored refugees, who are currently covered by OHIP, would have access to medication coverage consistent with the ODB formulary.

Coverage will be subject to a three-month wait period, which would start the day the refugee claimant's application is accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and as indicated by the date the federal identification card is issued.

Like the former federal program, the three month wait period will not apply to certain categories of refugees, and immediate coverage will be granted to:

  • Children under the age of 18.
  • Pregnant women for pre/post natal care and delivery.
  • Individuals who have an urgent or essential medical condition requiring immediate medical attention, in the opinion of a physician practicing medicine in Ontario.

Cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program

In June 2012, federal government changes to the Interim Federal Health Program took effect that cut the temporary health care coverage provided to refugee claimants and refugee claimants whose claims have been denied as well as medication coverage for privately sponsored refugees.

Prior to the changes, all refugee claimants received extended health care coverage from the federal government, including most hospital, physician, laboratory, diagnostic services, medications and supplemental services (e.g., drugs, dental  and vision care).

Under the new federal program, different refugee claimant groups receive varied health care coverage leaving many with only very limited public health and public safety coverage (e.g., tuberculosis treatment).

One of the most significant changes to the system was the removal of coverage for refugee claimants who are from a country the federal government names on its Designated Country of Origin list (e.g., Mexico, Hungary) and for rejected claimants awaiting deportation (regardless of country of origin). Most other refugee claimants no longer receive supplemental health benefits, including medication.  

For more information about the IFHP, visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website. 



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