Americans need to know Canada’s health care system is not free

Image of digital OHIP card when old card replaced in 1995.

Given that the Republican and President Trump’s Obamacare repeal and replace health care bill just died in the Congress, I want to remind Americans that a health care system like we have in Canada is neither a single payer system, nor is it free.

Let me explain. Health care in Canada is governed by the five principles of the federal Canada Health Act (CHA): (1) that it is Publicly Administered, (2) that it is Comprehensive, (3) that it is Universally available to everyone, (4), that it is Portable throughout the country, and (5) it is Accessible.

While technically, all ten provinces and three territories must adhere to those principles, officials tend to interpret those principles in different ways.

In Quebec, for example, private clinics are allowed to operate. In Ontario, we have a private hernia hospital in Toronto called Shouldice but other than that, private clinics where patients pay out of their own pocket, are not allowed. In BC, a private clinic is taking the government to court arguing that by making patients wait weeks or months for medically necessary services and not allowing them to purchase private services, the government is contributing to the patient’s decline.

The difference in Ontario is that while most community-based labs and clinics are for-profit, Ontario citizens simply provide their OHIP (pronounced O-hip) health card (as shown in the above image) and the for-profit bills the government directly for payment.

So, where does the money actually come from? Using the Province of Ontario, where I live, as an example, funds come from three sources;

  1. Middle & Large business health tax revenue;
  2. Block Grants from the federal government; and
  3. Individual Health Care Premiums.

In the case of Ontario Health Care Premiums, which are deducted from a person’s pay cheque or paid annually on their income tax, payments can vary from $300.00 to $900.00 depending on income level. Individuals who earn less than $20,000 or are receiving disability or social assistance benefits are not expected to contribute.

Those three sources of revenue cover emergency or catastrophic services at a doctor’s office or hospital, including surgery, specialized procedures like angiograms, angioplasty, x-rays, MRI’s, CAT scans, nutrition advice, meals and blood work. Also covered, in hospital, are dental surgery (following an accident or having teeth extracted), prescription medications and physiotherapy.

However, out of hospital, only those who are on disability, social benefits or are 65 or older, get some of their prescription medications covered. As well, most dental and para-medical services such as physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractor and naturopath are not covered and individuals must pay personally or via supplementary insurance coverage, either through an employer, pension plan or privately. However, in certain situations, like cancer treatment, there is an Ontario program for catastrophic prescription coverage, such as Trillium.

Anyway, given the purpose for this post was to show Americans how much each Canadian actually pays, let’s figure out what a retiree couple averaging a $50,000 a year household income (through a combination of self-funded retirement funds, employer pensions, Canada Pension Plan payments and Old Age Security) would pay.

  • They will pay $1,200.00 (600.00 each) on their income tax forms for their “health care premium;” and
  • They will pay approximately $350.00 per month for a supplemental major medical package if they include dental coverage.

Which is $5,400.00 CAD a year.

The crux of the matter is that, while Canadians do not have to worry about deductibles or paying at the time they access health care services, their health care coverage is definitely not the “single payer system” far too many American officials say it is, nor is it “free.”

Something for Americans to think about.

Trudeau Liberals tell us “they know best” re our health care options

Cambie centreHere we go again!  The short-sighted, one-sided, political anti-private health care preaching is back. PM Justin Trudeau will be an intervener in a court case in B.C. that will start on September 6, 2016 related to the Cambie Surgery Clinic, a private B.C. hospital.

On what basis will the prime minister try to shut down the B.C. private option? By using a report that was commissioned by his government, that’s how. It is, of course, very negative and, in fact, compares the private option to a U.S. model rather than a European model like Germany.

Which is a real puzzle to me given that Trudeau doesn’t seem to have a problem with his home province of Quebec having private options? I mean, if one province can have private options under the Canada Health Act, and the sky has not fallen, why is it wrong for other provinces to want the same?

For example, what do Canadians do when the care they want or need is not available or not timely in their province or territory? Should our provincial plan not arrange for us to get the treatment we can’t get in our publicly funded system in the U.S? You’d think so. But, only in certain instances, it seems.

Check out this story. Trent Hills Mayor Hector Macmillan has a tumor which is killing him but, while he can’t have the timely surgery he needs in Ontario, OHIP won’t send him to the U.S.

I have a couple of personal examples too.

  • Three years ago I broke a knee and was told I would have had to wait three months for an MRI. However, I was able to get an appointment within two days with a Buffalo MRI clinic. It cost me $465.00 US which was worth every penny because I was able to begin physio treatment immediately. Technically, I should not have been allowed to have that option.
  • Last summer my husband discovered he had to have a hernia repaired. He had two choices, to get it done in the local hospital or go to Shouldice, a private hernia hospital in Toronto. He went to Shouldice and was glad he did because many of the patients he met there were getting their publicly done hernias redone. The fee was $1,000, which was reimbursed by our private insurance. Plus, even though Shouldice is private, OHIP paid a portion, just as they already do with hundreds of Ontario’s private blood and x-ray facilities.

Without a doubt, it would have been more helpful if the report writers had looked at what Quebec and European countries are doing regarding private-public health care, rather than being obsessed with everything the U.S. does.

The crux of the matter should be that, as long Canadians use their provincial and territorial health card, it shouldn’t matter if the service they are using is public or private.

Leaked Ornge budget document vs Liam Reid’s OHIP for US treatment

Click Liam’s image to donate.

Today, the Ontario PCs have released information from a leaked Ornge Ambulance budget document and it’s mind-boggling! Read it and weep.

As MPP Frank Klees writes in the PC news release: “$20 million in taxpayer dollars are flowing out the door to investors instead of being put towards patient care.”

Of course, all Ontarians want an air ambulance service that is safe and reliable.  So, if we thought that the $20 million was being spent on more pilots or the service itself, we wouldn’t mind. But investors? When we now know that at least two patients have died due to Ornge delays.

So, we need to think about that alleged mismanagement and disregard for human life and limb at Ornge in relation to what Caroline Alphonso wrote in yesterday’s Globe and Mail (and also reported on here at CotM and at Quixote’s Last Stand), regarding two-year-old Liam Reid’s family trying to getting OHIP to fund out-of-province treatment that is not available in Ontario.

 As Alphonso explained, the McGuinty government hopes to save $28.5 million by cancelling out-of-province OHIP funding. Meaning, that not only is $20 million not going towards patient care at Ornge,  it is also not going for out-of-province patient care at OHIP. 

What exactly ” is” the Ornge money going for? Well, according to the PC link, it is going toward investors indirectly via interest on an Ornge debt that the McGuinty government says they are not responsible for. So, if the Ontario government is not responsible for the Ornge debt, why are Ontarians paying the interest on that debt — particularly when health care dollars are being cut elsewhere?

Now, is there a direct correlation between the Ornge $20 million and the OHIP $28.5 million? Perhaps not. But, the two decisions do represent McGuinty government priorities and how the money is actually allocated.

Austerity? Paying down the deficit? I think not!

And to think that Premier Dalton McGuinty and his Ontario Liberal caucus, not only want a majority government, they probably think they deserve one, otherwise they wouldn’t have arranged for there to be a by-election in Kitchener Waterloo.

Well, CotM readers can let Premier Dalton McGuinty know exactly what they think. 

Twitter: @Dalton_McGuinty

Email: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

[…]

Endnote: To donate towards Liam Reid’s U.S. treatment, just click on the photo above.

McGuinty gov’t refuses OHIP for blind 2-yr-old Liam Reid US treatment

Credit Globe and Mail.

Of course, officials at the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) say they can’t talk about an individual case due to privacy laws.

Well, fortunately I have no such limitations, given the family has already spoken to reporter Caroline Alphonso at the Globe and Mail.  

As Alphonso reports, Liam Reid is two years old and will be fully blind by the time he is four if he doesn’t continue to get treatment by a world renowned surgeon in Michigan — treatment that is not available in Ontario.  And, indeed, Alphonso provides plenty of evidence that the treatment really is not available in Ontario. (H/T NNW)

Anyway, the family has been attending the Michigan clinic for nearly three years now but has run out of money because OHIP refuses to contribute anything towards their costs. Why? Because the McGuinty government is cutting expenses.

Now, normally, one could understand the cut backs, given the size of the Ontario deficit. But, why is the McGuinty government cutting back on health care — be it the out-of-province funding the Reid family needs, or the closure of the Thistletown Regional Centre — when they continue to spend billions of dollars on subsides for wind energy that are costing us far more than we take in? 

Plus, as my fellow blogger Joanne wrote at Blue Like You last month, the McGuinty Liberals are spending millions paying for energy we can’t even use.

How very sad.

In the final analysis, however, whether OHIP comes through or not, I hope that some way is found that Liam Reid’s family gets the funding they need to stop the progression of Liam’s condition. And, if they have a fundraiser, perhaps someone could let me know via my Contact Form and I’ll add that information as an update to this post.

[…]

Update: I have heard from one of Liam’s aunts. The blog where people can donate for Liam’s care is: liamseyes.blogspot.com.  A facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/LiamsFight and the twitter handle is: http://www.twitter.com/liamsfight.

[…]

Endnote: For further information on how much money the McGuinty government waste’s on wind energy, check out the archives at ontario-wind-resistance.org and quixoteslaststand.com.

Who knew Health Canada investigates “garage” sales for consumer safety?

Credit National Post files.

There is a saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Well, who would have believed, when the Conservative government of Stephen Harper unveiled new consumer safety legislation a few years ago, that such a road would be built on the taxpayers’ dime?

Of course, the PM and his Cabinet would not have anticipated such a road, but it was built just the same,  all thanks to career bureaucrats who sit in the their little cubicles thinking of ways to take away our freedoms.

In fact, the new legislation seemed like such a good idea at the time, I even listed it as Item # 13 on my Harper Government Accomplishment List.

Now, however, Marni Soupcoff of the National Post is reporting  (H/T JNW) that Health Canada is taking those regulations so seriously, they have staff who actually check out re-sale classified ads and what is being sold at garage sales. And, if you are found to be non-compliant, you can be sued.

For what you ask? Well, check out this Post article by Tristin Hopper who writes:

“According to the Health Canada website, a garage sale is effectively breaking the law if it includes lawn darts, corded blinds, broken toys, toys with powerful magnets, hockey helmets, tiki torches or any product that has been the subject of a recall. Regulations also call for garage sale electronics to be bundled with “instructions for safe use.”

The regulations are particularly strict when it comes to children’s products. Sellers are barred from dealing in children’s costume jewelry containing lead or cadmium, as well as cribs, cradles and bassinets that do not meet “stringent regulatory requirements.” Any car seat sold more than five months ago may also be subject to scrutiny.” [My highlighting.]

Now, the regulations may have a point about trying to re-sell broken toys or costume jewellery containing lead or cadmium. Although, it is conceivable that a parent could buy all the parts to an otherwise expensive toy and fix it.

Plus, I am not sure how anyone would know, just from looking at a piece of jewellery, whether or not it contained dangerous heavy metals. I mean, as far as I know (and my hobby is jewellery design and beading), the only metals identified are gold, sterling silver, nickel, stainless steel or an alloy of all of the above.   Of course, we know that products manufactured in certain countries overseas may be suspect.

Anyway, I agree with Soupcoff’s suggestion, that with all the public service cuts, perhaps now would be a good time to cut the entire Health Canada garage sale and classified ad department. 

Or, perhaps that department could concentrate on not allowing products from suspect countries into Canada. Wouldn’t that be a better use of taxpayers dollars?

In the meantime, I would recommend making a list of what you plan to sell and check out every single product online, starting at this Health Canada site

Nanny statism indeed!

Were 2 Ontario deaths due to Ornge & McGuinty gov’t incompetence?

Ornge, Ontario’s “non” air ambulance service.

Thursday, May 17, 2012:  Here is a CBC update on this story from Yahoo. Turns out it was actually 8 hours before Orgne transported Judy Dearman, not six, and that it was Orgne who directed the hospital to cancel the land ambulance. That is just inexcusable. It is one thing to be delayed but quite another to stop an alternative arrangement.   

And, Health Minister Deb Matthews has the nerve to suggest no one jump to conclusions. If it had been her loved one who had waited that long, with fatal results, I am sure she would not have been so flippant.

Also, I find some of the comments at the bottom of the update very strange given they are condemning PC MPP Frank Klees for telling everyone about this incompetence rather than condemning the McGuinty government for allowing it to happen.

[…]

For the most part, the Ontario McGuinty Liberal government is not held to account by the national media like the federal Conservative government in Ottawa — although, the latest two deaths due to alleged Ornge incompetence may be the exception to that rule.

Mind you, the outrage about the two Ontario deaths does not seem to compare to the outrage over Conservative government estimates for the future purchase of F-35 fighter jets.

Here, for example is a Toronto Star article. And, here is a Google search page on the Ornge topic. I will let readers judge if those sources are as demanding of accountability and transparency of the Ontario Liberal government as the fighter jets estimates are of the federal Conservative federal government. In all, there are 22 million entries on the F35s and 307,000 on Ornge.  

In any event, regarding Ornge, would the latest two patients — one following a car accident and one with a serious infection following a colonoscopy — have died anyway? No one will ever know for sure, but in the end, it took six hours to transport Judy Dearman to Ottawa, which should have been a two hour drive. In other words, it would have been much better to simply transfer both patients via land ambulance.

Whatever the causes of the air ambulance delays, the arrogance in the McGuinty Cabinet is breathtaking. I mean, all the Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews can say about the latest incident is not to jump to conclusions and to ensure Ontarians that safety is of the utmost importance to Ornge.

Pardon me?  Not jump to conclusions? Safety is of the utmost importance? Two people are dead and in both cases, time was of the essence. I mean, not jump to conclusions when the staff at the Barry’s Bay hospital say they were calling Ornge for help every fifteen minutes.   

Plus, the Star article tells us that Dearman’s husband was told to drive to Ottawa, once there to turn around and go back to Barry’s Bay, then once almost back in Barry’s Bay, told to turn around again and return to Ottawa. If that is not incompetence, I don’t know what is. 

However, unlike the F-35 estimates, when the money has not even been spent yet, nor any lives lost, why is the media outrage not the same or worse about the Ornge alleged incompetence? I guess we’ll never know for sure but we can certainly question.

Whatever the case, I hope the voters who live in the Kitchener-Waterloo former riding of Ontario PC MPP Elizabeth Witmer, are paying attention. There will soon be a by-election there. And, the last thing they and Ontario needs right now is another Liberal MPP, particularly since the McGuinty caucus is just one seat short of a majority.

That said, and putting politics completely aside, the crux of the matter is that two deaths occurred in the last week and alleged Ornge incompetence may have contributed to those deaths. Whatever the reasons,  the McGuinty government has to intervene, rather than spin and make excuses, to make sure the reasons for the delays do not occur ever again?

Health minister Matthews deflects blame to Hudak for cancellation of West Lincoln?

West Lincoln Hospital

When I read this article in the St. Catharines Standard, I just couldn’t believe the anti-PC bias in the way it is written. 

It is about the recent cancellation of a renewed West Lincoln hospital project in Grimsby and was written on May 4th, 2012 by Standard staff Jeff Bolichowski and Shawn Jeffords.

Basically, even though Bolichowski and Jeffords admit they couldn’t reach Ontario Liberal government Health Minister Deb Matthews, they use her words from a CKTB radio interview that deflects blame for the change in status to PC Official Opposition Leader Tim Hudak.

Given that media treatment, is it any wonder Ontarians keep electing the McGuinty Liberal government? For example, Bolichowski and Jeffords wrote:

After taking several swipes at PC Leader and Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP Tim Hudak, Matthews said when the economy took a hard turn the government had to review all spending.’This project will, at some point, move forward. I’m sure of that,’ she said.” [My highlighting.]

“Matthews slammed Hudak for remaining ‘completely silent’ on the issue until the rally. She said at that point he began to pressure the Liberals in question period at Queen’s Park. ‘He’s never raised the issue of West Lincoln, ever,’ she said.” [My highlighting.]

Never raised the issue, ever? Yet, she admits in the same interview that Hudak did ask questions this past week after the rally.  I mean, as long as the project was going ahead, what should Hudak have asked the Health Minister: “Are you lying about the hospital going ahead?”

No, this is simply double-speak and deflecting criticism! And the media allows her to get away with it! In fact, even now, after the huge rally of 12,000 people, the Liberals are spinning, saying the West Lincoln project is only on hold.

In the final analysis, what does Hudak have to do with the decision anyway? He is the leader of the opposition, not in the governing party.

 I mean, shouldn’t the media be asking Matthews why the $1.2 billion mega hospital in Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s riding is still going ahead– particularly since the people of West Lincoln have already raised the $14.5 million asked of them by the same government that is now, allegedly, reneging on the project?

For those unfamiliar with the West Lincoln Hospital, it is a very old hospital that, even in its current condition, is home to a wonderful obstetrics team. My granddaughter has had two children there. In fact, women from all over Niagara prefer to go there to have their babies than to hospitals in the larger centres.

Why? Because it is friendly and allows mid-wives, doulas (birth coaches) and fathers to provide support alongside an obstetrician.

Kids need exercise

One of the few topics related in some way to education that is not political is the need for kids to be healthy and active. So, what should schools and parents do to make sure children stay healthy? Do something, anything that is activity oriented — just don’t call it exercise.

For example, elementary schools should not do away with recess, even for students in the intermediate grades because it gives the older children time to run, throw a frisby or kick a soccer ball. And in high schools, there should be any number of possible athletic activities, from team sports or simply spare time to shoot hoops.

I mean, life expectancy rates have been continually rising over the last century.  However, there are concerns that the current trend towards a sedentary lifestyle could reverse that trend.  Why? Too much TV. Too many video games. Too much time on the computer. And, not enough cycling, running, throwing, jumping and climbing.

Anyway, the trend today is to organize outside fun activities that are healthy without calling them exercise. And, here are dozens of Google sources that will tell you how to do that.