Achoo! Can someone pass me a tissue, again? It seems like not a week goes by without someone in my family being sick. It’s ‘cold and flu’ season in Canada, and we sure have had our share. The whole bunch of us went through countless colds, a couple episodes of a gastro virus, and a brush with the flu and high fevers.
We’ve had so many visits to the doctor’s office to check the kids’ cold symptoms (Is it an ear infection? Is there a wheeze in the baby’s chest?) that the receptionist recognises my voice over the phone.
Yes, it’s me again. I’m bringing in this child, this time. No, the other one is doing better now, thank you.
I have three children ages five and under. Someone is always sick or getting sick. We live in the land of the runny nose. Two of my children have serious special needs and they have their own unique medical concerns. So we go to the doctor, a lot.
And we remain grateful. Because all those trips to the doctor do not cost me a dime out of pocket.
I live in a country with universal healthcare. This means there is a government-run funding program for basic medical and emergency care expenses. In Ontario, Canada our program is publicly funded, so my taxes help pay for the services I use.
So a recent trip to the hospital Emergency Department when the baby had croup and was barking like a little seal did not cost me anything, other than a great deal of worry. Nurses, doctors, machinery and medicine were all paid for. Another visit to the Emergency Department when my three year old daughter had her elbow ‘pulled’ (the bones were pulled apart) meant that three different doctors, x-rays, and all the nurses and technicians were paid for out of my province’s health care program.
I cannot calculate the cost of having three different doctors examine my daughter. (I know most private insurers allocate a $100 or so dollars per visit.) I don’t know what three of them would cost. I do know x-rays cost at least $200, and she had several different views.
I cannot imagine having to worry about paying out of pocket or if an insurance plan would pay for any of this. I cannot imagine dealing with financial stress on top of an already stressful situation. I cannot imagine having to make a decision between healthcare and paying for basic needs. I cannot imagine the pressure of huge amounts of debt due to healthcare services.
But this is the reality for many families around the world.
I am lucky. Others are not so. I know I am very fortunate, and I remain grateful for the things we have received.
But I believe everyonehas the right to the same healthcare services that my family uses. I do not think people should be forced into financial hardship to have basic healthcare. One of the goals of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to help countries create health financing systems that will lead to universal coverage. WHO realises that one step toward better healthcare for all is removing financial barriers that prevent people from accessing the basic healthcare services they need.
Obviously the universal healthcare funding pot is only so deep, so there are many things that we need to pay for separately, either out of pocket or through private insurance. In Ontario we need to pay for most medications, dental care, physiotherapy, and vision care – and there are some convoluted rules about who qualifies for what coverage, depending on your age and need. But the bottom line is most basic medical and emergency care is covered by the province.
I know in Ontario many people complain about ‘wait times’ to see a doctor or ‘doctor shortages.’ Depending on the time of visit, the nature of the clinic or hospital, and the type of health concern you could wait for hours.
When my son, then aged two, fractured his femur from his hip to knee, our local hospital sent us to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, a world-renown healthcare facility. My son was medically stable and we were told the wait for an available operating room could be up to eight or ten hours. So we packed diapers and lunch, and waited in a private room with a flat screen television, watching cartoons the whole time. Nurses and doctors checked on us, and eventually my son’s leg was reset.
The whole episode was painful and traumatic for all of us, but nowhere as bad as being handed a bill for thousands of dollars in healthcare services.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog. Angela is a Special Education Teacher and parent of two children with Special Needs. She writes about her super-powered, special needs life at http://halfpastnormal.wordpress.com/ Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via Compfight cc