Wednesday, January 12, 2011

That Bogeyman called "Healthcare"

Greetings Friends,

Thanks to Calvin Gluck for posting an image of his Ontario health card on his blog. Just so you don't think I swiped the actual card from Calvin (I don't know him personally), here's a link to his original blog post about Canadian healthcare. From what I can tell, Calvin was here in Canada on a work visa, and was entitled to coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) while living and working in the province of Ontario.

I have that exact same card in my wallet, right next to my driver's license. Like Calvin, I have to admit that it provides me with significant peace of mind, knowing that my tax dollars are giving me something useful. I haven't had occasion to use my OHIP card often; there was one instance last year when my ornery, but lovable cat Lily, swatted me, and left a bloody eye in her wake. A trip to the nearest walk-in clinic, a 5 day course of anti-biotic and a tetanus shot later, I was ever so grateful for that OHIP card. No co-pays, no deductibles, and no astronomical emergency room bills to contend with. Unlike a trip to a Nassau County, NY hospital emergency room, which consisted of a diagnosis of kidney stones, a $500.00 deductible, and a fraudulent $5,200.00 bill issued by some scammer at the hospital, claiming that I didn't have insurance coverage at the time of treatment. I passed the kidney stones 24 hours later, but the fraudulent bill took significantly longer to rectify.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Canada's universal healthcare system is perfect. It's far from it. It's shocking sometimes to look down at a receipt for something I've purchased to see 13% sales tax added on to the cost of the item. But, I'll live with it, considering the thousands of dollars I've paid for health insurance over the course of my life, and what I have gotten in return: more grief and aggravation than any actual healing. That's the thing about insurance companies - you think they're there to provide you with peace of mind, but really, what they're doing is scaring you into paying them larcenous premiums on the off-chance you should ever need their assistance. And if you find yourself in need of their assistance because you have a chronic health condition you must contend with, they really show you the love by threatening to drop your coverage. That leaves you high and dry because you won't be able to get insurance from another provider due to your "pre-existing" condition.

Anyone who isn't targeting liberal politicians by scribbling crosshairs over their districts, knows that the insurance industry lobby is one of the most powerful in Washington. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out why President Obama's healtcare bill was watered down like a bottle of speed-rack vodka; including the removal of the government option. Everyone was fearful of the government "death panels" and the rationing of surgeries and other treatments because they were all going to be on the government's dime. No one ever mentioned the millions of Americans who are forced into bankruptcy because of catastrophic illnesses and inadequate insurance coverage. Not to mention the millions of Americans who cannot afford health insurance at all. And what about the millions of people trapped in dead-end jobs because they refuse to give up their benefits? 

Wherever you live, there are always going to be trade-offs. Here in the Great White North, I might have to wait a little longer for a non life-threatening procedure, but if I need it, I know I'll get it. I don't have to rely on my employer for health care; good thing, since I'm self-employed. And if, God forbid, I have to contend with a catastrophic illness, I know there won't be some ghoul from my insurance company standing watch over how much their profits are shrinking on account of my misfortune. Best of all, there are no Canadian politicians at risk because of unpopular government healthcare policies. Generations of Canadians have come to rely on the universal healthcare system, and most of them will tell you, they wouldn't trade it for what Americans have - ever. For me, that's even more comforting than my OHIP card.


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