Dear Canada, Thank you For Your Health Care System

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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.

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About Author

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

27 Comments

  1. Our health system may have its flaws, but overall, it’s wonderful. I too am grateful for all it offers. I can’t imagine going into debt for necessary medical care – that just shouldn’t happen.

  2. I am glad that now I am working here in Europe, with good healthcare as well (though I am not sure how it compares with Canada). You’re right, when I was a student in the USA, I did have health insurance, because I was employed by the university, but it was crappy, it didn’t have any options at all, and there were co-pays everywhere.

    Now, there is a huge proportion of my salary being taken away for tax and insurance, but hey, I think my health benefits match it quite well.

    • I think healthcare in Europe is quite similar to healthcare in Canada–at least France and Canada are very similar on that matter. I don’t mind paying taxes, that’s fair. I’d rather that than dealing with private insurances!

  3. There’s more help in Canada that people usually suspect. I was very surprised to find out that a lot of canadians don’t have an extra private health insurance, like I used to have in France.
    First time we went to the doctor here (no health coverage yet), he gave us the medecines right away from samples he had so that we wouldn’t have to pay them!

    • True! I don’t have extended benefits either (well, not since I’m self-employed) but I think I’m good for now. Healthcare is affordable, if you need to pay for something. I can’t believe the price of medication and simple procedures in the US–crazy!

  4. Nice coincidence, I watched Michael Moores documentary <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0386032/&quot; title="Sicko" two days ago which is exactly about this topic. It’s kinda nice to see how things work (or don’t work) in other countries. I liked my German health insurance, but I think it’s even better here in Canada. Call me a communist, a socialist or whatever, I really don’t care. If it was right that everyone deals only with his own problems, why would they have insurances in the US? Isn’t it the exact point of having an insurance that a small risk that can cost you a lot of money is evenly shared by everyone?
    Health costs can knock you out in no time and there is just no better thing than a federal health insurance.
    Now I wonder if a US health insurance company would refuse to pay for pregnancy related expenses since it’s a self-inflicted condition ;).

    • If I call you a socialist or a communist, I’m praising you–these are good words in my book 😆

      I know what you mean. I think the worst part in the US is having to deal with private insurance. Yeah, I’m sure *some* are honest and helpful… but most seem to be a pain from what I heard. How unfair… no one chooses to have a disability, an accident, an illness. I’m truly glad my taxes go to other Canadians in need, and I’m grateful to be covered by OHIP.

      I wrote about Sicko long time ago when the movie came out: http://correresmidestino.com/sickos/ 😉

  5. Hi Zhu!

    I too like our system and I don’t begrudge any tax dollars that I have paid for our healthcare system. It could be improved with more access to family doctors but all in all I am quite happy with the system. It gives me great peace of mind to know that my fellow Canadians regardless of circumstance can access needed healthcare.

    Tommy Douglas, the elected Premier of the first Socialist government in North America brought in Socialized Medicine in 1962. (He was recently voted the Greatest Canadian in a nation wide poll.) Despite the long doctors strike in Saskatchewan in 1962 he prevailed and the rest of Canada followed suit. So, you have to thank Tommy Douglas and the New Democratic Party/Cooperative Commonwealth Federation of Saskatchewan for starting our present health care system. The Liberals under Lester Person implemented the programme nationwide but they did not start it.

    • You are absolutely right, thank you for the important trivia! I’m a big fan of Tommy Douglas, such an interesting career and leadership. I learned about him not that long ago actually.

  6. I am grateful for the Canadian health care system, too. I support it 100%, even though I will likely not use it to the extent that most people do. On that note, I will send you an email about that very topic that may surprise you.

  7. Yes, healthcare and medical cost can be very hefty sometimes and here in Singapore it is a totally different system. We do have have Medishield but even that is not enough so we have to buy our own medical insurance.

  8. Pingback: My Non-Scary Non-Gory Labour and Birth Story – Part II | Correr Es Mi Destino

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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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