I found myself in a horrible position last week; that of the the inadequately insured. Let me tell you, it was not a good place to be.
Ironically, I was a Canadian in Canada without proper medical insurance. In the land of "everyone has health insurance" I was facing a $1000 medical bill. Who knows how much more if hospitalization had been required?
It was all my fault and, quite likely, entirely avoidable. I called our insurance before travel and learned we had emergency coverage and I was duly warned that "emergency" was defined by them, not me. I didn't like the sound of that, so I did a bit of browsing and explored purchasing additional coverage, but it was like reading Greek and I couldn't for the life of me figure it all out in the tiny amount of time I had to devote to the search.
I raised my hands in defeat and said "we'll be fine" and away we went. We'd always been fine before right? One hour before we landed in Calgary, Lucas was burning up. Oh oh.
Friday was bad. Saturday was bad. Saturday night was the worst. At 5 in the morning, I emailed our insurance company, called an ER in Calgary, called the airline to see if we could get home earlier .... no one was telling me anything I wanted to hear.
Things always look better in the light, but Lucas' fever was still lingering so on Monday a Doctor's visit was necessary.
Some really good people helped me that day and I was so grateful to get Lucas the care he needed. It was a virus followed by a nasty ear infection. I was grateful we only had to pay a total of $55.
Because of the Calgary Region Health Authority's H1N1 protocol, Lucas should have been shuttled off to the ER because of his fever and congested cough, but they allowed us to avoid that cost. I worked with a nurse practitioner, a front desk clerk, a nurse and a Doctor on call - each one helped me when they didn't have to.
My lessons? Don't travel to Canada unless fully protected. I'm startled by how nervous and anxious I was about being unprotected in my own country. I received a four day glimpse at how millions live in the US.
I am dismayed by how I had to balance my son's health against my bank statement. I resented the requirement to ask "how much?" before I could consider moving ahead with what my son needed. I was aware that really no one could help me and I could feel myself being backed into a corner. Of course I was willing to pay any amount for Lucas to be okay, but the pressure of possible back-breaking costs was daunting.
My US insurance company assured me they would "consider" my claim "if" it met their "emergency criterion". They made it abundantly clear that it was their main priority to find a way to not pay my claim.
My fellow Canadians, however, restored my faith in humanity. They showed me that they live in a country where the health and protection of their neighbours matters to them. They do not withhold their tax dollars from the sick, nor do they spend their time finding ways to deny coverage to illnesses that don't meet certain definitions. I am proud of the Canadian mindset that willingly gives to others.
I am nervous about living in a country that has many, many people determined to turn away from their fellow man, woman and child. It is my impression that the US is populated with those who do not want to extend help to others. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps there are many, many Americans who would have been motivated by good-will to help me out of my bind. Somehow, I think this is not possible in light of the huge resistance there is to universal health care.