Nunavut signs interim deal on non-insured health benefits with Ottawa

Nunavut Health Minister John Main says negotiations on the agreement ‘came right down to the wire.’ (David Gunn/CBC)

Both governments say they recognize ‘it is not a comprehensive solution’

The governments of Nunavut and Canada have reached an interim funding agreement on the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program (NIHB) for Nunavut Inuit.

That includes an additional $190 million from the federal government for medical travel.

The two-year deal is retroactive to April 1, 2022, and ends next spring.

In a news release, the Nunavut government said the agreement is a step in the right direction, but that both governments “recognize it is not a comprehensive solution.”

“We must improve access to health services to reduce the need for medical travel outside of the territory and support health equity for Inuit in the territory,” the release says.

Nunavut Health Minister John Main said the negotiations over the agreement have been ongoing “for quite some time.”

Federal Health Minister Mark Holland, left, and Nunavut Health Minister John Main in Iqaluit in March, signing a health-care funding agreement other than the NIHB agreement. (David Gunn/CBC )

Main said the two governments reached an agreement right before the end of the fiscal year.

“It came right down to the wire,” he said.

Main said he’s happy with the agreement and the increase to medical travel funding. Before, there was a gap where the territorial government wasn’t receiving enough funding to cover medical travel for Inuit in Nunavut.

“This new agreement largely eliminates that funding gap,” Main said.

The money goes to the Department of Health, which uses it to offset the cost of medical travel for Inuit under the NIHB program.

“We have limited services in each community. We need to provide Nunavut residents and Nunavut Inuit access to essential health care,” Main said.

He said with the agreement only in place until next year, he’s working on what the next NIHB agreement will look like.

“We’re hoping that this trend of increased federal recognition of the need and the funding gap… we’re hoping this funding continues,” Main said.

-With files from TJ Dhir

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Feds pledge nearly $86 million to improve Yukon health care, CBC News

Greenland: Drones in Arctic health care? Greenland pilot project now underway, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Indigenous students in Alaska get hands-on medical experience at nursing camp, Alaska Public Media

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