Alberta mother's battle puts spotlight on First Nations medical care rejections

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Alberta mother's battle puts spotlight on First Nations medical care rejections



Alberta mother's battle puts spotlight on First Nations medical care rejections


An Alberta mother is challenging the federal government over its refusal to pay for her daughter's medical care.

Shiner applied to have her daughter's treatment covered by the federal government's Non-Insured Health Benefits Program, a program aimed at ensuring that First Nations and Inuit people receive medical care comparable to other Canadians.

Her daughter's orthodontist assured the government the treatment, which would cost more than $8,000, was medically necessary and not merely cosmetic. But Health Canada nonetheless rejected the family's claim.

The family appealed the government's decision but that, too, was turned down. Shiner says she spoke to other parents and realized she wasn't alone.

"They're denying everything. They're not financing anything," Shiner said.
Shiner says this is not the first time the family has had a claim rejected.

This time around, Shiner says she decided to challenge the government not so much for her own family but for others who might be denied even more vital treatments.

"There's other children out there that have severe medical issues," she said.

"I don't think it's OK to stand by and let it happen."

Shiner approached Cindy Blackstock, director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.  [..] She connected the family with a Toronto lawyer, who agreed to help them challenge the government's ruling.

"This happens on a regular basis," Blackstock said of the Health Department's rejection.

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus also took up the family's case, raising it in Parliament.

To Angus, this case is just the tip of the iceberg. There have been, he says, at least 534 cases of aboriginal children whose claims for orthodontic care have been rejected. Families, he says, routinely meet a dead end when they launch an appeal in what is a three-stage process.

"Eighty per cent were rejected in the first round," Angus said.

A spokesperson for Health Canada issued a statement Friday saying there are clear criteria and guidelines in place for dental coverage and that these are always followed.

The Shiners received word from Health Canada late this week that their case would be reviewed again. Their lawyer had been preparing to challenge the rejection of their claim in Federal Court. That is now on hold pending a final decision from Health Canada.    


Huzzah for Shiner, Blackstock and Charlie Angus.


Another similar issue:

Feds pay tens of thousands in legal fees to fight a young First Nations teenager who needs braces.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

By "similar" do you mean "the same exact case"?


Uh, no, that's not what I meant, since I accidentally assumed it was different.  Good to see I posted it in the correct thread though (and even more correct than I initially thought).

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Well, it does certainly remain a little peculiar that anything to do with teeth is subject to exemptions under nearly any plan that's not a private (and explicitly dental) coverage plan.  Here in Toronto there's a munipal initiative that provides dental care for kids on a means-tested basis, but I've no idea whether it would include orthodontics.

OHIP will cover oral surgery only if it's performed in a hospital.

It's like your teeth are little "foreigners" in your body, so they pay out of (your) pocket.