Health survey aims to weed out cheats

Yukon's Health Department faced a conundrum: how to design a mail-out survey that wouldn't be tossed in the trash by respondents? They found a solution, but not without creating new trouble.

Yukon’s Health Department faced a conundrum: how to design a mail-out survey that wouldn’t be tossed in the trash by respondents?

They found a solution, but not without creating new trouble. Now some Yukoners feel they’re being threatened by a letter mailed by the department, which warns, “If you do not sign and return this card your health care could be cancelled.”

This message is delivered in bold reversed type on shocking yellow paper, with the word “cancelled” in oversized lettering.

But the aim was never to alarm residents, says Phil Perrin, Yukon’s registrar of vital statistics.

Yukoners face no immediate threat of losing their health coverage, he said.

If someone recently moved and didn’t receive the survey, officials would try to contact the respondent by phone or other means before pulling coverage, he said.

While the survey is being conducted for all Yukon adults, if you haven’t yet received a package in the mail, fear not. The survey is being doled out in small batches over the next year.

And, in a worst-case scenario, if a resident finds his or her health insurance yanked, it could be easily reinstated once proof of residency is provided. “It’s not a case of them sitting for three months again,” said Perrin.

The survey is brief. It asks respondents to confirm their dwelling address and that of their spouse and dependents.

This information is necessary because the department suspects nonresidents of taking advantage of the Yukon’s plush extended medical care, said Perrin.

The cash-strapped Health Department wants to purge the system of these interlopers.

The Yukon offers better benefits to its poor and elderly than other jurisdictions. As a result, nonresidents are abusing the system, according to reports the department has received.

One-time Yukoners may return to the territory occasionally to obtain cheaper drugs, for example, said Perrin. The department suspects these abuses add up to “quite extensive costs,” said Perrin.

“We want to ensure we’re not paying for people who shouldn’t be gathering that health care.”

Also, the department wants to ensure residents are collecting the benefits they’re entitled to, said Perrin.

For instance, residents who live far enough away from a medical facility are eligible for a subsidy that offsets the cost of driving. “All we want is to ensure you get the benefits you’re entitled to,” said Perrin.

“It’s not meant to be a threat. It’s meant to be an advisory.”

An optional section of the survey was added by Yukon’s bureau of statistics. It asks the ethnicity of the respondent and respondent’s spouse. This information will help statisticians better estimate the number of aboriginal people in the territory.

The statistics bureau uses Yukon health records to estimate the population of the territory and individual communities.

These numbers matter because they’re used by Ottawa to calculate the Yukon’s transfer payments.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.