If Medicare is a political sacred cow, what are we sacrificing?
These kinds of measures may not be far off. “The Canadian public is already paying more than half of their health care costs privately. [All that’s covered] are physician services and in-hospital services. Everything else that might be covered is at the discretion of the provincial government,” notes Dr. Doig.
For Dr. Wong-Rieger, solving any problem with Canada’s health care system is a full circle trip back to accountability. “I’m not up to the point where if you smoke I’m not going to take care of you. But, if you’re given good advice and you choose not to do it—is there not a point where [the patient has to take] responsibility?"
Nurse Rosenberg sees these kinds of problems every day. Recently, a 24-year old
man, over 300 pounds, came into her office on a scooter. He told the doctor he needed his disability forms signed. “He said, ‘I’m morbidly obese and I have depression. And I just wanted a few refills for morphine, Demerol, and Tylenol 3.’”
The doctor filled out the forms, “so he could charge OHIP $150,” but would not refill the prescription.
Without having any more interaction with the patient apart from a brief discussion, the doctor signed forms to ensure this man received a monthly government cheque, and potentially sent him on to another doctor to try and get medications clearly not used for depression.
Where does all of this leave Canadians? It leaves us asking what we are sacrificing for our political sacred cow. The answer: Perhaps we sacrifice our own health because we take it for granted that Medicare will always be there and always be “free.”
For Rosenberg, “If you can’t give good reason why you’re 100 pounds overweight, or if you keep getting Chlamydia, you should pay for it. You put yourself at risk, so why should we pay the consequences? That’s why the people who need an MRI really quickly don’t get it: because someone ate themselves into oblivion and is now diabetic sitting in the ER. It’s a shitty system.”
*In order to protect her identity, Kathleen’s name was changed.
This article has been nominated for a RNAO Award for Excellence in Health-Care Reporting.