Canadian Healthcare 101

After yesterdays post, there was a fair amount of discourse regarding the validity of socialized medicine. So today I decided to give all the reader’s here a little crash-course on Canadian Health Care. To ensure I had not completely forgotten what it was like (I have been ‘out of the system’ since I was 25), I called my dad with some of the comments and concerns American’s had about Canadian Health Care and here is the 411:

1. In Canada, we have what is called “O.H.I.P,” Ontario Health Insurance Plan.


My last two years of high school, I was actually a receptionist in two different doctors offices. For those who know me, apparently I was always holding 3 or 4 jobs ;); life’s too short, gotta try them all! To see a doctor, a Canadian citizen in Ontario would swipe one of those cards to be seen without charge. I can remember American’s coming in to the doctor’s offices I worked in, and I would have to pull out a massive list of fees being charged for everything including the swab stick they used to look down their throat. Then watching them shell out, at minimum, $100 for the visit and thinking to myself, ‘thank goodness I’m in Canada!’ Shortly after that I moved to America; the irony.

In Canada, everyone IS treated equally.
This means whether you work at McDonald’s or for the Prime Minister, you will be treated the same medically. You ARE allowed to see whichever doctor you wish, anywhere, at any time; this is unlike the US system where I found out AFTER I had Humana One for 8 months that I wasn’t covered to see a doctor anywhere in the Lynchburg City limits. WHO KNEW???

2. In Canada, there is a wait time in the ER, equivalent if not SHORTER than than any wait time I’ve experienced here in the US.
Not to mention the ambulance trip to the ER and being seen there is at no charge, whereas, I purchased 10/mth more insurance here in the States to cover $1,000 worth at the ER JUST IN CASE. I remember as a kid, having a massive ear infection at 2am and being curled up in the fetal position on the floor of our house at 37 Hemlock Dr. My mom, not sure what else to do, drove me to the ER, we waited an hour or two, saw the DR, got ear drops, and I was on my way home sans pain and my mom sans a bill.

3. In Canada, it takes a few months to see a specialist. IT DOES HERE TOO!!
I was trying to see a dermatologist here, and I was going to have to wait five months to get in! I think I waited three months to see the dermatoligist in Canada in my early twenties when I went on acutane, which leads me to…

4. In Canada, you have to pay the “handling fee” at the drugstore but otherwise drugs are free!
When I was on acutane, OHIP covered my medical expenses when I was in undergrad as well as the equivalent price of drug costs. So I took my little acutane prescription to the local Walmart here, back when that was the ONLY store on Wards Rd, and asked to have it filled. I knew at home, the drug would have cost $100, but I only paid $5 to fill the prescription. When the lady behind the counter informed me the drug was going to cost $315 here, I lost it! What kind of a sick system was this that they were marking up a drug 300%!!!! Naturally, I had my dad fill it back home and mail the stuff to me.

Why am I in American you ask? Why…because it is the land of opportunity of course! Maybe this will give a little perspective on why I would move home one day, and how the Canadian health care system actually operates.

I wonder, for those reading this who are also not American, what kind of health care system are you used to, and does it work? For those of my readers who ARE American, I welcome your thoughts about either system. Regardless, no system is perfect, and I haven’t addressed the issues that Canadian citizens have with OURS either; but there is something to be said about the ability to heal without the added stress of finance. Sometimes it’s difficult enough to get better than thinking about the looming deductible and copay hanging over your head every time you are sick 😉 Unless, of course, you’re wealthy; how nice for you.


8 thoughts on “Canadian Healthcare 101

  1. “4. In Canada, you have to pay the “handling fee” at the drugstore but otherwise drugs are free!”

    Your medication was paid for by your dad’s drug plan that his work provides, not OHIP. The trip to the hospital, clinics and any specialists are covered by OHIP. If you don’t have a drug plan (ie: self employed, part time worker, etc), you have to pay for medication out of your own pocket. There are also certain medications that cost an insane amount of money that company drug plans will only cover a % of, which means you could still be out a lot of personal money at the end of the day.

    • Ahh…good information!! I always thought it was part of OHIP! So part-time doesn’t cover a drug plan? OHIP itself is something you can not have unless you RESIDE in Canada (I know, I tried to get it back this summer and they kaiboshed it quick!). How does that work then if OHIP covers hospital visits, but not the drugs administered in the hospital?

      • Medication received in the hosptial is covered under OHIP. If the hospital writes you a script for medication after you leave, that is covered by your plan (or not).

        Generally all full time employees working for a company are on a drug plan. There’s some exceptions with regards to part time / temp employees and such, mostly done by the company to keep their own costs down.

  2. Renee has asked me to put in my two “cents” regarding the UK health system, which we call the NHS. This stands for Nurses Hugging Sickos.

    We get it free, because it’s paid for by the taxes that we pay when we go to work. I don’t like paying taxes, but i do like having a little cuddle from a nurse when i feel poorly. How is the standard of this healthcare? I don’t know, I have nothing to compare it to. I am often told that doctors don’t get paid alot of money at all. Certainly it’s been a very long time since i had a doctor who was born in England. That seems to suggest that they don’t get paid very much.

    Generally speaking, I don’t know of anyone personally who has really truly had trouble with the NHS. Having said that, reading a newspaper would indicate that everyone who has ever been to a GP has something to complain about. Waiting times are long. They’re much quicker if you go private. But the majority of people can’t afford this.

    I do believe, as I said earlier, that the role of the Government is to look after the people. I think that one of the simplest ways that this can be done is through healthcare.

    As long as US healthcare is private business, they’re going to have a lot of money to spend on adverts and newspapers telling everyone how shit public healthcare is. I certainly believe ALOT of middlemen would be cut out if healthcare went public.

    Furthermore, me and Renee were talking about abortion before she had to go and do something else. She said that life starts when you have a heartbeat (which she said is in the first few days) and that this was based on the fact that when your heart stops, you are dead.

    However I think it’s also important to take into account independence. i.e., as long as the foetus is vitally dependent on the sexually irresponsible teenager, it’s not really living. Personally I think it’s all about the development of the brain. BUT WHO THE FUCK EVEN KNOWS WHEN THAT HAPPENS.

    sorry I could not be of more use.

    • Lol…insightful AND colourful Josh, just as I remember you! Thanks for the perspective on the British system – are you saying that it is both private AND government run?

  3. we have the NHS and private healthcare companies such as BUPA. This stands for BO! U PAY ADDITIONAL. If you have enough money you can go to a BUPA doctor, they are more attractive and the hospitals they work in are bigger and float above the ground.

    So in fact, public healthcare works perfectly well along side private healthcare. Why don’t you do that, America?

  4. I’ve enjoyed your last 2 blog posts Renee. After 3 years in the States and now being back in Canada for 2, I must say I appreciate the way health care is handled here better.
    Although, when tax time comes around you realize how much it does cost us. (42% of an annual Canadian’s income goes to taxes compared to 28% in the US). But at least here I… Read more don’t have to worry if my doctor will take my insurance, I don’t get sent a bill for hundreds of dollars after minor surgery at the hospital, and I don’t have to pony up a co-pay everytime I have an appointment.
    I think the challenge with the US & public health care is that Canada has had it from when the country was a small population. While the US is considering just now, with a huge population. That is a lot of finances to come up with!

    btw if you’re wondering about the taxes thing check out

  5. Pingback: Black Ice, 6lb Yorkie, and a Sprained/Fractured Shoulder… « Canamgirl's Blog

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