Thursday, February 5, 2009

Healthcare?

It's a really tough topic that pulls at the heart strings - health care costs. It is also very confusing and difficult to sort through. Here in Canada we 'enjoy' national health care but there are also a lot of misunderstood actions involved. When talking to some American friends, they assume we get everything free all the time. That is not true. First of all, every province runs it's own health care and only follows a few federal guidelines. It is not a country-wide system. Some provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario pay monthly premiums. They are very low compared to what the US pays for insurance, but it is still not free. I have talked about this before, because Alberta just dropped it's monthly premium but it was previously $88/month per family. We do not get dental, eye, or ambulance services for free. You can pay for extended insurance to get a break on those services, such as my SO gets 80% now for dental and will get 100% soon because he will have been at his jobplace for 5 years. We have to pay up front under this plan, not a co-pay. If dental costs $5000 we have to pay that and then put our application in for a refund from the insurer. Anything over $1000 has to be pre-approved as well. These changes took place over the years because the provinces could not handle the costs with public funds. Hospitals often run lotteries and rely on donations to keep running or get new equipment. Etc etc. But the point to note is provinces are slowly moving away from a completely free system because they cannot handle the strain. There is a doctor shortage, some rural hospitals have completely closed down or closed certain wings, etc. The money is not there despite our taxes and premiums. The wait times are very long, people clog up the system because of having no family doc and going in for a sliver (literally), etc. It is very hard sometimes.

I have thought about this a lot because I had a premature baby last March. It cost $1500 a day to have him cared for for 15 days. We did not have to pay a single penny so of course I am very grateful for the system in that manner. We would not have been able to cover that - but wait, we actually would have because we have made choices in our lives that does not include much debt. We rent, the truck is paid off, and we do not owe more than $1000 on our credit cards. So we actually could have and would have gotten a loan to pay the hospital if we had to, or pay more for our extended insurance plan to cover some of the cost in the first place, etc etc. We actually COULD have handled it because we do not tie up every cent we own in payments for frivilous luxuries. I also think about how if we did not have all of these programs, we would be taxed less and would therefore have more money at our disposal. So it kind of goes around in circles doesn't it?

What concerns me about what is going on in the US is the sheer number of people. I hear calls coming in from non-profit hospital workers on Sirius Patriot (just heard another this morning) where they talk about their low pay, huge amounts of people every day to treat, lack of money for new equipment, etc. If every hospital has to turn this route, what is going to happen? I have friends in the US that can call their doc and get an appt that day (I am sure it's not that way everywhere, but this is just my experience). If I called my doc today and said I was sick I would get an appt date in 14 days or more, or get told to come to his weekly walk-in. My friend lives near my doc and had to go to his walkin the other night because she suspected bronchitis and she waited for 3 hours to get in. I don't think I have ever gone to a walkin and been called in before an hour of waiting... maybe very occasionally. The only time I have been seen quickly is when I had a kidney stone and went to the hospital. I waited about 20 mins or so and was almost passing out from the pain so they took me ahead of the others - but I still had to go to the desk to beg them to get me in sooner. I told them to check my file, that I rarely go to Emerg and there is something seriously wrong. The nurse moved me to the third on the list after seeing I was about to keel over. Other than that, I always sit and twiddle my thumbs forever. Friends in the US have told me that their waiting times are long too... okay.... so isn't it going to get even worse now? Are they prepared for that??

We do not get our prescriptions free which is another misconception. I know people that pay$1500 a month or more for medication for serious disorders. Some are covered by insurance and co-pays, but some are not because they are so expensive. My medication is about $75 a week for blood pressure. We can send in my slips to get about 70% back but I still have to pay up front. It is a very fine line, deciding if national health is beneficial or not. No one wants to see a child suffering because their parents cannot afford the care - of course not! But at a time where the US is having such major economic difficulties and hundreds of billions of dollars are being used to 'stimulate' it, is this a time to introduce national health for millions of children? I don't know, it's a difficult mix between ethical and economic and rationaL ideas/plans.

I read on Obama's website in November (office of the president elect, change.gov) that they were NOT going to do national health care because it is not a feasible program because of costs. It said that the Obama-Biden plan was to find something in the middle. Of course most of that website mysteriously changed within a week but I distinctly remember that section and commented on it to others. Now, yesterday, Obama was on television saying that the childrens heath initiative was the first step to his wish for insuring ALL Americans. All of this flip-flopping is concerning... before the election, National Health care was discussed, after the election he said he was not going to do it because of the astronomical cost, and now a few months later he reveals that he IS planning to do it. It is mind boggling sometimes, and also hard to believe he has only been president for a little over 2 weeks. So much is being done, and I don't know if it has been thoroughly thought out! How can such major decisions be made so quickly? And in relation to my previous post, when the president claims to not be aware of some of the things in the very bills he is pushing. That is scary to me.

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These are my views and opinions. If you don't agree or think I am sadly misguided, that is your view. Feel free to share your thoughts but I also reserve my right to moderate content (IE foul language, excessive flaming, etc).

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