Mary’s Vote for Health Care Reform

Sep2003bg526capital440Washington On the eve of the dramatic and historic health care vote, I got a letter from a friend, Mary Rowles, who is also a labor official in British Columbia.  She had been sick all week with pneumonia and equally ill reading with consternation the mis-characterizations of what reform might mean south of the Canadian border.  Perhaps everything that can be say, has been said, about the urgent need for reform, but Mary’s clear and simple story of what life might come to mean for ordinary people is worth remembering to root  us all more in reality than fearful rhetoric.

It is so distressing watching the hysterical reaction of those opposed to a national health care program.  I thought I would share my own experience if you ever need to pull out of your pocket an anecdote about what it is really like if you get sick in Canada.


I called my doctor on a Monday morning, after being sick for a week with a flu that didn’t seem to be getting any better.  I got to see her first thing Wednesday morning.  No charge.   She was concerned and sent me for a chest x-ray at the clinic in the next building.  After 20 minutes, I had my x-ray in hand.  No charge. I also had to stop at the lab for blood work.  I waited 30 minutes before I was seen.  No charge.  I returned with the “evidence” to the doctor who declared I actually had pneumonia and wrote out a prescription.  No charge for this second consultation.


I’m supposed to see her in a couple of days to make sure the drugs are working.  There will be no charge for this visit.


So how much does an individual pay for health care here in BC? We may be the only province still using premiums to finance the system , instead of a payroll tax on all employers.   The rates?.  The Medical Services Plan charges 57$/month for a single person; $102/month for a couple and $114 /month for a family of three or more.


There are no disqualifications for pre-existing conditions.

A large number of workers do not pay the MSP premiums-they are employer-paid workplace benefits.   And at least low income workers are subsidized.  If household income is  less than 22,000 annually your premiums are 100% subsidized.     Even at $33,000 annually you get a 20% discount.


The drugs were not free-they would have been if I was in hospital, but I’m not that sick. Fortunately for me I have an extended health plan through my employer that will pay the $71. This is one of the major flaws that advocates want fixed through establishment of a national pharmacare program.  We aren’t getting anywhere with this.


There are problems with the system of course, but on balance we receive  delivers good healthcare, when we need it, at no charge.


There is no way to get there without taking the step forward from where we are, and hopefully that will happen on Sunday.

Mary ended her note by saying, “Feel free to circulate to any who might need it.”

Thank you, Mary, I have.  Get well soon!

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