I actually think that we have had a pretty good medical system in Canada. But I think that although the expertise is here, and we have universal access, there are ways where things could be improved.
Have a look at “Is There a Doctor in the House? Part 1 of 3” if you missed it!
A large part of modern medicine is in the diagnosis of health problems. This might take place with a simple visit to your General Practitioner (GP) or in a walk-in-clinic. It might also involve lab work or probing procedures with or without a visit to a Specialist.
After the diagnosis, you’ll go for treatment. That might mean surgery, physiotherapy, or other procedures, but more likely than not you’ll walk out of the Doctor’s office with a prescription for medication to be filled out by a pharmacist. (a druggist or chemist)
The problem is that once you walk out of the Doctor’s office — for most — it is like you aren’t covered for health care at all. Any medication you require has to be paid for by you and some prescriptions, necessary prescriptions, and for that matter over-the-counter medication or on the shelf ones come out of your pocket.
Some people are lucky and have Provincial medical coverage that covers most prescriptions, or you might have extended coverage through where you work. Others who are on a provincial or federal disability income, PWD (some places called “Benefit”), or on income assistance (most places also known as “welfare”) might have most of their prescription medication covered by the government’s medication plans. Some low-income folks like pensioners might have partial coverage — like paying up to a certain fixed figure and afterwards having the government pharmacy coverage kick in.
For most people, families with an income, they have to pay the full cost of the medication prescribed to them. For all, the cost of over-the-counter medication or products on the shelves comes out of whatever budget they might have, large or small.
What is the use of a diagnosis if you can’t afford the treatment?
For some, even the price of analgesics (pain killers) like Aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil (Acetic Acid, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen) can add up if you have something like chronic pain. Antihistamines and most “cold medicines” can also add up. Chronic allergies lead to a fairly hefty annual bill.
English: National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., (Aug. 19, 2003) — Pharmacist Randal Heller, right, verifies the dosage and medication of a prescription at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Heller checks all prescriptions dispensed at the pharmacy before they are handed over the counter to the patient. Heller is retired as a Commander from the Navy Medical Service Corps. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Seth Rossman. (RELEASED) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Preventative treatment also doesn’t seem to count for coverage. Things like vitamins. First-Aide supplies and various supports and braces aren’t covered for most either, even if physiotherapy might be.
Treatments in hospital are covered, but if a person is being treated outside the hospital, then that same treatment might not be covered. There are some very expensive cancer treatment drugs that don’t have to be administered in a hospital, and even though “Chemo” given in the hospital is covered, the equivalent treatment taken as pills at home isn’t. Even in places where those treatments that can be done at home are covered, they don’t cover additional medications to deal with the side effects of the prescribed treatment. (Things like anti-nausea medication or supplements needed if the medicine depletes vitamin and mineral reserves.)
Some people might needlessly be in hospital because they can’t afford treatment at home.
Some people will get prescriptions for a more potent medication when a less potent one that is perfectly adequate for their condition is available off the shelf. I know one person who requested prescriptions for the prescription Tylenol 2 (acetaminophen with caffeine and codeine.) when they could get the relief they needed from Tylenol 1 (Same as Tylenol 1 but with less codeine.) or even Extra-Strength Tylenol. (No codeine added.) This was because the Tylenol 2 was covered, but the Tylenol 1 and Extra Strength Tylenol were not covered. This person had chronic pain due to bulging disks in their spine.
At least treatments like surgery are covered… except sometimes. Surgery for cancer in the mouth isn’t covered, and some elective surgery.
I believe that Canada is the only country with universal health care that doesn’t also cover medication. I think we need to catch up with other countries. Soon even the US will have better pharmaceutical coverage than we have.
Our system isn’t too bad, but it does have some holes in it. I’ll write about some more holes in the near future.
Look for Part 1 and Part 3 (Coming on Tuesday)