Canadian healthcare isn't as free as you think

I love you, America! Between living in your country as a digital nomad for part of the year and attending events as part of my job, I've spent a lot of time in the United States. One of the biggest misconceptions that I've run into when talking to my American pals is that they believe we receive free healthcare.

This is mostly incorrect.

Most Canadians, with the exception of Alberta, where I live for half of the year, either pay for our hospital and doctor visits as part of our taxes or are billed monthly by the province we live in. Having been born and raised in Canada, I've taken for granted being able to see doctors or receiving emergency medical care whenever I need it – right up to the point where I no longer could. I needed to visit the hospital, shortly after moving from one province to another. I'd registered as a resident there, but my paperwork had somehow been lost. A month after seeing a doctor, I received an $800 bill in the mail. So, that sucked. Even when things work the way that they're meant to, not everything is covered. Things like dentistry, massage therapy or counseling only happen on a pay-per-use basis, or if you're lucky enough to have a job that affords you a health plan. I fall into this latter group, thanks to my partner. 

And then there's the cost of drugs.

As The Guardian recently pointed out, Canada has the second highest drug prices of any industrialized country in the world. We're also the only country in the world with a universal health plan that doesn't cover the cost of drugs. If you're a Canadian with a chronic illness, like my father before he passed in 2008, affording the drugs required to ease your pain or keep you alive can leave a family in poverty. Hell, thanks to some interesting/poor choices in my past, I've been left with PTSD. Without my partner's health plan, paying for the drugs that help me to feel safe and grounded while I work my shit out in therapy and on the streets every day might be too expensive for me to afford. I have to imagine that a lot of Americans worry about similar things happening to them.

Anyway, I'll be writing for Boing Boing for at least the next month or so. Are there any other questions about Canada that I can try to answer for you? Hit the comments and let me know.

Image courtesy of pxhere.

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