Manitoba asks feds to reverse military health funding reimbursement cut

Manitoba's health minister is calling on the federal government to reverse a decision that would see a cut to the amount of money Manitoba is reimbursed for hospital charges incurred by Canadian Armed Forces personnel.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the federal government gave Manitoba notice recently it would cut the reimbursement rate by 40 per cent a year, or nearly $1 million a year.

The minister said the federal government made the change without consulting the provinces and territories.

"This is not right. Remember that it is Ottawa that has been insisting that provinces and territories follow the Canada Health Act to the T," Friesen told reporters Wednesday.

Alberta's health minister is also calling on the federal government to reverse its decision.

Friesen said the Canada Health Act makes it very clear that members of the armed forces are not eligible for universal health care offered by provincial and territorial health systems, and that's why the reimbursement system is in place.

Friesen said it was concerning to read reports that some hospitals in other parts of the country may deny services to patients because they aren't covered.

"Our members of the armed forces are important to us and we need to make sure that health care is there for them."

Austin Grabish/CBC
Austin Grabish/CBC

The issue first came to light Tuesday after Global News published a story revealing the federal government had quietly rolled back what it pays hospitals to take care of military members.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said members of the Canadian Armed Forces are being charged more than other Canadians for hospital services under current policies.

He said the Canadian Forces Health Services group is working with provinces and territories to address the fee structure between governments.

"I can assure you that high quality health care services are, and will continue to be provided to the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces," he said in a statement sent to CBC Thursday.

"We will always ensure that all members have access to the highest quality care, no matter who it is provided by. Let me be clear, no institutions are going to be negatively impacted by this."

Meanwhile, Friesen said Manitoba and other provinces have been asking for a meeting with federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor for 14 months, to no avail.

He said the reimbursement changes are only another reason a meeting of health ministers needs to be called.

Taylor's office told CBC News last month Manitoba only asked for a meeting through a letter Saskatchewan wrote that the Manitoba government signed in June.

"That's not accurate," Friesen said Wednesday.