Dear Canada, Thank you For Your Health Care System


Baby Socks, Ottawa, Sep­tem­ber 2012

I feel more Social­ist than ever and this is not a side effect of pregnancy.

Do you know why?

Because so far, I’ve had four ultra­sounds, a bunch of blood tests, the Inte­grated Test, two appoint­ments with a GP at the Uni­ver­sity of Ottawa Health Ser­vices and count­less appoint­ments (seven, eight…?) with an ob-gyn at the hos­pi­tal. And so far, I have paid exactly zero dol­lars. Nada, niente, nothing.

Oh yeah, sorry—I did spend less than $10 in total to get copies of the “aww-so-cute” ultra­sound pic­tures (aka the inde­ci­pher­able inside of my uterus in black and white). It hardly bank­rupted us, though.

The Cana­dian health care sys­tem isn’t per­fect but this year, I’m a grate­ful patient and an even more grate­ful taxpayer.

See, Feng and I are both self-employed. We do make an hon­est liv­ing but we have no social ben­e­fits. In Canada, this term (often short­ened as “ben­e­fits”) encom­passes all the “perks” some employ­ees can get as part of their employ­ment pack­age, such as health pro­grams with sub­si­dized den­tal and vision care, pre­scrip­tion drug cov­er­age, etc. You can see exam­ples of typ­i­cal ben­e­fits fed­eral gov­ern­ment employ­ees can receive on the Canada Ben­e­fits web­site.

The irony is, I was eli­gi­ble for such ben­e­fits when I was work­ing at the House of Com­mons and then at Canada Post. But I quit my job last Decem­ber for a free­lance career and I lost my benefits.

And of course, I got preg­nant a month later. I’ve always had a knack for timing.

Yet the news didn’t prompt me to beg for my old job back or to look for another full-time posi­tion with ben­e­fits. We fig­ure we’d be okay because in Canada, unlike in the U.S., most of our health care needs are taken care of by the provin­cial health insur­ance, OHIP in Ontario.

As Ontario res­i­dents and Cana­dian cit­i­zens, Feng and I are both eli­gi­ble for provin­cially funded health cov­er­age, and enti­tled to health care ser­vices paid for by OHIP. All my pregnancy-related needs, pre­na­tal and post­na­tal, are cov­ered, as long as they are med­ically nec­es­sary (i.e. one of these freaky 3D ultra­sounds wouldn’t be covered).

Every time I go to an appoint­ment, all I have to do is to show my health care card and the provider bill OHIP directly. I never have to open my wallet—there are no deductibles and no co-pay.

We don’t even need a pri­vate insur­ance. Sure, we have to pay for pre­scrip­tions if any (still afford­able, drug prices are nego­ti­ated with sup­pli­ers by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to con­trol costs) and I am not eli­gi­ble for mater­nity leave as a free­lancer (which is okay, because my neu­rons need to work and I can have a flex­i­ble sched­ule). I don’t get sub­si­dized mas­sage ther­apy (gov­ern­ment employ­ees do!) and if the kid needs glasses, well we will pay for them. Life ain’t bad, trust me.

We won’t lose sleep over insanely-high med­ical bills because our basic health care needs will always be cov­ered, regard­less of our employ­ment sta­tus. In Canada, there are no life­time lim­its or exclu­sions for pre-existing con­di­tions. I can access plenty of health-related ser­vices for free at the point of use, and I feel well taken care of.

Hav­ing a baby with­out OHIP cov­er­age would have been a very stress­ful expe­ri­ence. Prospec­tive immi­grants some­times ask whether it’s best to give birth in their home coun­try or in Canada even before they are per­ma­nent res­i­dents and eli­gi­ble for OHIP, and I per­son­ally wouldn’t rec­om­mend them to do so. Pregnancy-related care is expen­sive. You can see a list of fees health care pro­fes­sion­als charge OHIP here (rather tech­ni­cal but it’s a good exam­ple of how much health care ser­vices cost).

I often hear ter­ri­ble sto­ries from our South­ern neigh­bours who can face huge med­icals bills if they don’t have a good pri­vate insur­ance. And even when they do, they some­times have to fight with it for coverage.

None of this bull­shit here.

Except for my first cou­ple of years in Canada when I was really poor and work­ing part-time, I have been pay­ing income taxes here for about six years. And I’m very happy I do because I’m con­tribut­ing to fund­ing the health care sys­tem and other social pro­grams I believe in.

Today, I’m a grate­ful recip­i­ent. Thank you Canada. One less thing to stress about. Now I can focus on boost­ing the country’s birth rate.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Pingback: Having a baby abroad in Canada- Global Differences Series

  2. I am so jeal­ous! Even with good insur­ance here in the States, my daugh­ter cost a cou­ple thou­sand. Mostly it was the hos­pi­tal bills for myself and her — going with a mid­wife for pre­na­tal care greatly reduced that cost. Enjoy the free­dom of not dread­ing open­ing the mail. :)

    • Ouch! That really sucks. I feel really lucky to have every­thing (well, pretty much every­thing) cov­ered by the Ontario provin­cial insur­ance plan. I love Canada for that.

  3. The prob­lem is peo­ple don’t really bother to take as good care of them­selves as they should. Many peo­ple don’t think about the harm they do to the health­care sys­tem they depend when they do care­less things and then walk in want­ing thou­sands of dol­lars worth of treat­ment. Even with so many doc­tors per province, peo­ple just don’t seem to be tak­ing care of them­selves for the good of soci­ety. At least this is what I think.

  4. Yukon Cornileus on

    There are more than two coun­tries in the world. Canada has like the 34 th best health care sys­tem in the world, why not take a look at the coun­tries that do it bet­ter and allow their cit­i­zens more choice and more free­doms, like pri­vate insur­ance for example ?

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