What Canadian health care is really like: 1. My Health Card
First in a series to counter the lies and confusion spread last summer about Canadian health care
I carry my Ontario health card (OHIP card) in a plastic sheath in my wallet because it's falling apart. I've had it for twenty-five years, ever since I moved from Manitoba to Ontario. Previously, I had never bothered to sign up with the health plan in whatever province I was living in; heck, I was young, and I would get treated anywhere anyway on the basis of my Manitoban origin.
Since I suspected I was settling in Ontario for a long time, I put in the extra effort to stand in line for a few minutes and get the card. Modern cards have a photo and stuff, but this one, which is still good, just has my name and number. It's all I've ever had to show in a hospital or clinic.
About ten years ago, I started having palpitations. (Incidentally, they followed a particularly nasty bout of the flu--which, however, bad, still wasn't as bad as the Swine flu is reputed to be; so get your vaccinations, please.) I was working downtown, nowhere near my doctor of the time; so, like any Canadian in trouble, when I had an episode, I went to the nearest emergency ward. I walked in, flashed my card, and was put through triage.
The reason this is significant is that my heart kept popping back into normal mode before they could get the leads on me to find out what was happening. So I kept going in; somebody suggested I wear a halter monitor, but we caught up to the problem before I had to. In any case, I never had any financial hesitation about visiting the ER because, as a Canadian, the very idea of any financial calculation being involved in such a decision is foreign to me, and repugnant. Nor did I ever have to do anything but flash my card at the door as I came in. No papers to sign. No waiver to pay. (If there are cashiers at Canadian hospitals I've never seen one, and I don't know where they're located.)
So, here's the essence of the great Orwellian big-brother health care system we live under: my card is ancient, cracked and falling apart, and doesn't even have my picture on it. Every now and then, I wave it at somebody in a pro forma sort of way. Something bureaucratic happens when I do this, but I don't know what it is and don't care; and if I didn't have a card something else bureaucratic would happen that I similarly don't need to care about. No agency of the government has ever interceded in my life regarding my health care; I've never been told nor asked by any government entity to take any test or have any treatment. My health is a matter entirely between me and my doctors and no one else has any say in it.
Health care, in Canada, is you and your doctor. It's nobody else's business; and that little card has no sinister government apparatus behind it. All it does, as far as I know, is keep things between you and your doctor.
Which is what the government should do about your health.