Monday, May 28, 2007

Thank You For Waiting

Americans think health care in Canada is free. Some fear that. Some embrace that. But either way, that's what they think.

The truth is health care is not free. You pay a premium and you get health care. If you don't make enough money to pay the premium, you still get health care. But it's not free.

Your taxes pay for health care. You pay federal taxes, the Federal Government transfers some money to the Province, the Province allocates money to health care administrative agencies, and it goes on from there.

Whether you are rich or poor, when you need health care, you get in line for it. It takes some getting used to.

It's against the law to operate private clinics for most things. The lines are getting longer. The government has become more adept at measuring "wait times" so that it might look like the lines are getting shorter. But they're not.

Last week I went to the eye doctor for a routine exam. (This is NOT covered by the BC health care plan, nor do I have supplemental insurance that covers it. So it's paid for by me. But as I told the person in charge of collecting the money, "I'm an American. I'm used to this.")

The exam went fine. It was a very thorough exam. There are no problems with my eyes except that I need glasses. I've needed glasses since I was three, so no surprises there.

However, I have a small skin tag under my left eye. This is not life-threatening, and I don't even think it's especially gross, but it's annoying in the cold weather, and I curl in the winter so I'm very cold for several hours at a time.

"Can we have someone look at this and see if it makes sense to remove it?" I asked my doctor. "I realize it's really minor, but if there's a list, I would like to get on it."

"No worries," she said. "I just have to write a letter referring you to the cosmetic guy since this involves your eyelid. You should get a phone call from his office in about two years, and then they'll make an appointment for a few months after that. If he thinks it makes sense to go ahead and you want to do that, his office will get you on the waiting list for surgery."

Thank you for waiting!You can check the Ministry of Health website to see what the wait time will be. The health care administrative agency and the Provincial government only measure "wait time" for surgeries from when the specialist puts you on the surgery list. The proceeding two and a half years doesn't count against wait time.

So. I'm waiting for a phone call in two years for an appointment in five or six months after that. Then if it makes sense I'll go on a waiting list for surgery.

I feel like a real Canadian now.