For Diane Melanson the wait for medicare coverage in New Brunswick has been long and complicated.
Melanson, 75, said confusion over her citizenship status is holding up approval of her coverage. And as a result, she and her family have had to pay thousands in medical bills for a surgery when she broke her hip last winter.
“The next morning after the operation, the doctor was at the foot of my bed with my fiancé here and asking him for his money, so medicare didn’t cover it,” Melanson said.
That’s when Melanson’s niece, Susan Belliveau stepped in and paid the bills that added up to nearly $7,000.
“I would have paid anything in order for my aunt to be OK,” Belliveau said.
Melanson was born in Minto in 1945 and lived there until her family moved to the U.S. when she was 15. In 1969 she became a naturalized American citizen, and because of the laws at the time, she unknowingly lost her Canadian citizenship.
“I thought once you were born in a country, you’re in, you’re in. If I’m Canadian, I’m a Canadian. I became a naturalized American, but I didn’t denounce my Canadian citizenship,” Melanson said.
But in 2009, that legislation was changed under Bill C-37 and Melanson’s Canadian citizenship was restored and corrected so that technically, she had never lost it at all.
Melanson moved back to Minto almost three years ago and said that medicare is requiring proof of citizenship before it will cover her. Belliveau has been helping through the process.
“In February, when she applied for her medicare,” said Belliveau, “they asked for all of her documentation … and when they found the naturalization papers, they sent a letter saying, we can’t give you (coverage) until you prove that you are a Canadian citizen.”
Belliveau said they then sent in Melanson’s birth certificate, but it wasn’t accepted as proof. Medicare said it still required further proof of citizenship.
But with the help of a patient advocate, Melanson did receive a temporary medicare card in March, which helped cover about a third of her medical bills.
Don Chapman also lost his citizenship as a child when his family moved from Vancouver to the U.S. He’s been advocating for citizenship rights for decades.
“This woman falls in the cracks, not so much as ‘is she a citizen?’, as to interpretation, and somebody in the province is not understanding the federal legislation,” he said.
Belliveau said she has been in touch with medicare several times since February, but still hasn’t been able to secure full coverage.
In early November, Immigration and Citizenship Canada wrote a letter confirming Melanson’s citizenship. That letter was sent to medicare but still Melanson and Belliveau have not heard about Melanson’s status.
“It’s kind of hard on the nerves,” said Melanson. “It tears at you after a while.”
Melanson’s temporary coverage is set to expire Dec. 7.