Health Care

J10obama-healthcare1Mostly this is for all my American friends.

I grew up in the U.S. Born and raised there. Loved it. I went to the doctor there. I’d call for an appointment, get one, show up on time and then wait and wait and wait until the doctor was able to see me. That is about the only similarity I’ve experienced between the U.S. healthcare system (paid out of pocket) and the Canadian Medicare (paid by taxes) system.

We’ve lived in Canada for about 18 years now. Our first two children, boys, were born in the U.S. When our first was born we didn’t have health insurance. A Christian friend, who was a doctor, set things up with other Christian doctors to do everything from our ob-gyn, anaesthesia to the c-section delivery. Because of our meagre income, the hospital forgave the cost of our hospital stay.

My firstborn developed an illness when he was very young and had to be hospitalized. The church I worked for didn’t pay me enough to buy health insurance and they didn’t pay me enough to pay my medical bills out of pocket. The cost of his stay would have done us in but for family bailing us out with the bills.

It was shortly after this time that we discovered that our American born and trained family doctor had been making things worse for our son. To make him “better” he kept giving him stronger and stronger doses of penicillin. Turns out the swelling and welts and mucus were all because he was ALLERGIC to penicillin. Penicillin we’d been paying for.

When my second son was born we were in a similar situation only this time we made enough to buy health insurance and pay for the additional “pregnancy rider”. CHA-CHING. Of course the beauty of this was that all that we paid for still left us with at least 20% to pay ourselves for our healthcare. We made, for us at the time, hefty payments with each visit to the OB-GYN – outside of our insurance costs. When our son was born there was a spot on his lower back that worried our doctor so he ordered some tests to make sure he didn’t have Spina bifida. He got right in for his MRI and we discovered there was no problem. At all. Other than an incredibly HUGE bill for the hospital stay plus MRI and other additional and unnecessary tests. I figured, “No problem, we’ve got insurance.” Turns out that if you’re born with something it’s an “existing condition” and you have to nearly threaten to blow up the insurance company offices to get them to pay back some of the money you’ve been paying in to them. We argued, complained and got rude and eventually they worked out a deal with us. The bill was still HUGE but not as big as they had wanted it to be.

Then we moved to Canada. My daughter was born here. 3 out of 3 for C-sections. I was the first husband the hospital let in the delivery room (during a section) at the little hospital where we lived. Shortly after our daughter appeared the loud voices of celebration turned to hushed whispers and I knew something was wrong. The Paediatrician there for the birth (besides the OB-GYN, Anaesthetist, nurses and our family doctor) walked over to us and explained our daughter had been born with Cleft lip and palate. A pre-existing condition if there ever was one.

We were very well cared for during the hospital stay. Within days of getting home we were off to the Children’s Hospital where we met with a team of Specialists. They outlined the kinds of surgeries, treatments and care we could expect for the next 18 years. A month or so later we were back at the Children’s Hospital for Em’s first surgery. She has since had plastic surgery, oral surgery, bone grafts, dental work, tubes in and out of her ears, speech pathology, hearing tests and general exams for health. Total bill from the hospital: $0. Care and kindness: Priceless. She’s never had to wait for anything that left us feeling like we were waiting too long or even just “long”. Ever.

In my occupation I am around a lot of sick people. I’m around families who are dealing with illness, both mental and physical. Sometimes you experience a bad doctor or a bad situation but nothing worse than anything we ever experienced in the U.S. I am not saying that sad or bad stories never happen here but those stories have more to do with human error than system error. Our healthcare system here is not perfect but you’re likely never going to find a perfect system. I do know that, from my own experience in the U.S., the money driven healthcare system definitely can work out quite well for those with a solid income. Not so good for everyone else.

I’m posting this today because I’ve just seen/heard/read an avalanche of criticisms of the Canadian Healthcare by people in the U.S. who clearly are presenting a side of the story but not the whole story. This, is my story and my family’s story here in Canada.

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About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in denial, Family, Friends, getting old, Life, media, perception, reality and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Health Care

  1. ralanboyle says:

    Thank you for the insight.

  2. Brian, this debate on over-boarder health care differences is the best thing to happen to our (Canada’s) universal system since its conception in Saskatchewan by Tommy Douglas (a free-thinking church leader such as yourself) 40-some years ago. Canadians have been taking a strong look at our system since this debate started in the USA, mainly because Canadians like Obama and tend to follow him in the media more than our own leader. A momentum has been growing over the last few years toward bringing a two-tiered health care system to Canada. I believe the debate going on today is the biggest threat to anyone who wishes to see a two-tier system in Canada anytime soon.

    I hope Americans make the right choice. Canada had a hard time realizing the benefits of universal health care. Protests and riot were sparked, doctors went on strike, you name it.

  3. Michelle says:

    My much younger sister was only 5 when she fought a rare, usually deadly illness two years ago and the medical problems are ongoing. She has received highly specialized medical treatment, consultations with a Harvard University medical professor, and been to Boston for treatments several times -not to mention the frequent IWK visits and probable upcoming treatments in Florida or Texas. Total medical bill = $0 in this case too.

    I recently watched this http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07312009/watch.html which ties in nicely with this subject if anyone is interested.

  4. Lindsay says:

    Hey Brian, Thanks for sharing your story…

    You bring up a subject that I am mostly very passionate about…perhaps too passionate?? I have discussed this very subject with some American folk just recently… the pros and cons of each, I think are pretty recognizable, however, at the end of the day one can not deny the benefit of a universal healthcare in which all people are able to access the system, and equally… or so they say. My concerns lie (lye? spelling issue!) with a growing number of clinics within Canada that do charge extra bucks to see people.

    Aside from that, I believe generally, there is an pretty great system in place, though I am not sure that we have hit the mark in terms of wisely spending our resources within the healthcare realm…such as putting in place prevention measures…to keep us from becoming too much of a rich/unhealthy nation (which, I think we have kind of hit the pinnacle of, perhaps…though I guess there is always further extremes :() Take Sweden, for example…apparently noted for their very healthy population, also spend many of their healthcare $$ on preventing chronic illness (exercise for all, healthy eating access, etc, etc…)

    okee…i think i have said enough 🙂

  5. brianmpei says:

    Thanks to everyone for jumping in and sharing insights on this.

    Andrew, I agree, I hope America does make the right choice and recognizes that how a society treats its weakest and most vulnerable says a great deal about that society.

    Michelle, thanks for sharing the link and your own story. I don’t think most Canadians can really appreciate in these days how life-giving it is to just know that if I have a health problem I don’t have to figure out if I can afford to go to Emerge or see my doctor.

    Linds, prevention is huge and an area in a “free society” that must be desperately difficult to promote in effective ways. It seems like a simple choice but then we tend to chose those behaviors that will sooner or later creep up on us and steal our health.

    • Lindsay says:

      I think you are very right…implementing an effective, sustainable prevention initiative would be a huge challenge- because we do tend to make unhealthy choices at the end of the day. But how great would it be if there were some new innovative ideas of implementing these strategies, that carry through from birth to old age…that works?? i think i might be some kind of eternal optimist…

  6. Massacheusetts provides susidized health care (full and partial) for its residents which unfortunately, I do not think is the case with every (or most) states.

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