Government considering new health care premium for elderly immigrants

Last week, citizenship and immigration minister Jason Kenney tackled the thorny issue of medical services for refugees.

This week, it's the turn of Canada's elderly immigrants.

In an interview Thursday, Kenney said the government is considering charging a health premium to families who want to bring their parents or grandparents to Canada permanently.

"One idea has been to require families to put down some kind of a health care bond for sponsoring parents or grandparents. They would pay up front for a portion of the health care costs that their parents would use in Canada," he told PostMedia News.

"Family sponsorship is a privilege, not a right. We are committed to family reunification within our system but it has to be linked to our scarce public resources. It's not fair for us to raise taxes on Canadians to pay for future health care costs for folks who've never lived in the country or paid taxes in it."

Some have suggested a bond of $150,000.

Toronto based immigration lawyer Michael Niren thinks Canadian families wishing to bring their elderly relatives to Canada would be open to such a fee.

"Most of these families are desperate to be united with their parents and grandparents," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"The government by cutting off sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents, have upped the anxiety level of these families and I have no doubt that they would be willing to fork over some cash if that would secure visas for their overseas relatives. I don't think there will be an outcry. People are now beyond the "shock and awe" of Kenny's proposals. Families just want to be united."

Recent statistics obtained by PostMedia explain the Harper government's motivation behind these changes.

Based on data collected between 1980 and 2010, Citizenship and Immigration estimates there were about 275,000 immigrant parents and grandparents over 65 living in Canada in 2010, at a cost of nearly $3 billion a year for health care.

The total cost for a newcomer senior who lives to age 85 years was cited at about $160,000.

And, shockingly, between 1980 and 2000, none of the parents and grandparents who arrived in Canada aged 50 or older have reported annual employment earnings that exceed $15,000.