Wednesday, November 26, 2008

this health care is NOT free.

   So much for free health care for all in Canada.

    I am still really mad about this, but I will try to be nice.

    I have been sick now for over a week and I really need my voice to come back in full strength. Last night's show was difficult and I didn't want to hurt my voice further by trying to project on a hoarse voice.  

   So I called out today and decided that I should see a doctor.  You know, to get medicine if that's necessary. To rule out a sinus infection.  To get better so I can go back to work.  

   I call the number of one of the doctors on the city sheet that our company manager gave us.  Perfect, turns out it's only a few blocks from my apartment and they have an opening right now.  

  I get there. The receptionist asks for my Canadian health care card.  I tell her I am American and find out that they don't take American health insurance.  Great.  I ask her how much the cost will be for the visit and she says very nonchalantly, No more than...$300. What? I think. Well, if it's anywhere even near $300, then I should just go because I really can't afford that fee, I say. 

  She looks at me pointedly. You're a performer, right? Yeah, I agree. And you're sick? Yeah, I lost my voice, I say.  Well, at least stay and talk to the doctor; he's very reasonable and we can work something out with you, I am sure.

  So I wait. The doctor walks out, Dr. Hand, which I think is a funny name. I tell him that I am not Canadian and so am not covered and ask how much the fee will be.  He says, Don't you worry about a thing; we can work all that out. We have to make sure that you are better.

  But then he asks me if he can leave for like 10 minutes; turns out he needs to see a doctor that can only see him right then.  I find this ironic and say with a half-smile, Are you sick? 

  The irony is lost on him and he just ignores my inquiry. 

   While I am waiting, I keep worrying about the as-of-yet unnamed fee, so I stand up, go to the receptionist and say, Hey, I think I should just leave. I really don't want to pay a ton of money to be told that I just  have a cold...Once again, she assures me, Don't worry--he will work something out with you.  It will be fine. You need to get better right? 

   So I sit back down. And I wait for Dr. Hand to return from his doctor's visit.  

   Finally, he comes back and escorts me into a room.  The first thing he says is, I can tell you are anxious about the cost; don't be, just relax. Fine. I try to relax. I tell him about losing my voice, I tell him that I am afraid it might be a sinus infection; I tell him I've been sick for over a week and need to get better.  See, whenever anything starts effecting my voice, I instantly get this irrational fear that maybe something is really wrong; that maybe my voice will never become normal again.  Stupid, I know; but this doctor unwittingly preyed upon those fears as he says, Let's take a look at your vocal chords.

   Please God, let my vocal chords be okay, I think.  

    Dr. Hand readies this little apparatus that he says will first thread up my nose, then drop down my throat. This will enable him to look at everything closely.  He asks if I've ever had this done before, I tell him no.  He says it won't hurt at all.

   He is wrong.  At least, it is extremely uncomfortable. It feels horrible, all kinds of wrong.  As he drops it down my throat and then makes me start talking, I convulsively start gagging and then coughing. It's a reflex that I can't help.  At this, he dispassionately, if not somewhat patronizingly, says, Please cover your mouth when you cough.

   As if I was just coughing for fun and not trying to refrain from throwing up on Dr. Hand. I mean, given the choice between simply coughing on him or throwing up, I thought I was taking the polite route. But, I immediately cover my mouth with my hand.  And at this point, I know that I don't like him.  

   He tells me my vocal chords look fine.  And I am happy about that.  Also, that I have a virus. Specifically, a Toronto virus, whatever the heck that means. Oh yeah, and he literally writes on a prescription pad for me to "drink hot water with honey."  

   Then he gets down to business. I would normally charge someone 4 to 5 hundred dollars for this visit, but I understand that you think even three hundred is too much.  Yeah, I agree, I can't afford that. Well, he says, You have to understand that this is my living. Of course, I say enthusiastically, I understand that. He goes on, Can you pay 2 hundred? 


   I guess I will pay whatever I have to, I capitulate. Great, then 2 hundred it is, he quickly says, ending the discussion.

   Two. Hundred. dollars. To be told that I have a stupid virus...I walk out to pay the receptionist, literally fighting back tears at this colossal waste of money.  She looks up at me and says in her practiced and honeyed voice, I hope that he helped you. I give her a pointed look and say in a flat, emotionless voice, He told me to drink hot water with honey in it.  

   And I promptly leave the room.  


semi anonymous said...

good lord, it sounds more like a car salesman than someone in the medical field. With all the sensitivity of a brillo pad. I guess "First do no harm" doesn't have any significance in Canada. I know this sounds totally gross, but raw garlic knocks out a virus faster than anything I've ever used. And I don't even like garlic in my FOOD! This sounds even crazier, but cayenne pepper in that hot lemon water and then gargled has an amazing pain reduction effect. I don't usually tell anybody this because they think I'm nuts, I only know it works for me, and you sound desperate. The cayenne is also good for getting rid of a virus. When your cold is gone, I recommend medicinal use of chocolate for recovering from mean people.

joshua Latshaw said...

did you pay him right then?
i would let him sweat on can he not take your insurance? sounds like a scam...

kathiek said...

I am so sorry that happened, Jess! It seems rather underhanded of them not to be more up front about the actual fee.

Echinacea with Goldenseal is very helpful, Jess, and Lysine will help build up your immune system (I think, I'll double-check on that one and get back to you later).

Jessica Latshaw said...

S-A--all of that sounds like fantastic advice! much do I owe you? ;-)

Josh--I paid him right then. And then called drew really upset; he said that we can submit it to our insurance and hopefully get reimbursed. It just makes me so mad that I didn't leave when I wanted to!

Jessica Latshaw said...

And kathie--that is great advice, too--thanks!

Mom said...

This is a terrible situation! Really seems unethical....I agree with SA: your dr did seem like a car salesman. I'm hoping that all of Canada medical business is not like this for foreigners!

I'm thinking this should be reported to someone in Canada. Maybe even your insurance person would have some advice.

Of course, you sometimes get responses from natives on this blog. Maybe a Canadian will read this and give you a recourse. This is bad publicity for Canada.

Anonymous said...

Is that $200 Us dollars?

merry said...

I would have told him I can afford 35 which is my copay in america. What an a-hole. That is so wrong. I mean really really wrong.and infuriating. and WRONG.

Jessica Latshaw said...

I think 200 Canadian...and yeah, it still makes me really upset.

Aso, it taught me a lesson that I need to know exactly what the price is BEFORE I have to pay. No matter how many people try to assure me that it "will be very reasonable"

jason said...

"you have to understand this is my living."

$200 for 20 minutes. $600 an hour. 1.2 Million dollars a year.

When we were home last year for Christmas, Ollie got a really high temperature and because he's had febrile seizures in the past we were really nervous so we took him to the AI DuPont emergency room. It wasn't covered by insurance. We waited four hours and then a nurse practicioner took at a look at him for 15 minutes and told us just to keep an eye on him but it was nothing to worry about.


It's really really really messed up.

Ian said...

Hey Jessica! I love you in the show!I have seen it 13 times in toronto now!(I'm one of the ushers!lol)That is horrible! does your tour manager have The Artists Health Clinic on the list of places to go to? it's at the Western Hospital on Bathrst and Dundas! They are use to dealing with professional singers like us! I hope you get feeling better before you open in Baltimore! I'll see you at the show! Ianxo

Jessica Latshaw said...

Ian--thanks so much! That is so kind of you to say (and I am relieved that you work there, cause I was thinking that would be so much money for you to have to pay to see the show 13 times!);-)

And Jase--yeah, it really is messed up!

Benefits Specialist said...

Jessica - You can claim this to your health insurance and get reimbursed by your insurance even though the doctor's office doesn't take your American insurance. Simply (and I say this knowing insurance company's are a pain in the butt)fill out a claim form for your insurance including the receipt that you received from the canadian doctor. Fill out the form completely because if you skip anything they will turn down your request and you should get at least a partial reimbursement. You might even be able to do most of this online depending on your health insurance. This is what I do for a living, so I thought to offer my advice. I hope that it helps!

Jessica Latshaw said...

thank you so much Benefits Specialist! You're very helpful--I am gonna get on that!

Alex said...

Gee, it's sure nice to hear that the Canadians have been treating you well!
I can promise you that we, and certainly our medical specialists, are not all such assholes :P

Alex said...

Ah, whoops, pressed enter before my comment was finished. Go me.

Anyways, I'm the same way about losing my voice. I always seem to lose mine right before a show. I had to play Maria in West Side Story and go all funky soprano in the spring. And on the first day of tech week, I wake up with the biggest cold I've ever had. Fun!

Anyway, hope your toronto virus has settled down a bit!

Jessica Latshaw said...

Alex--thanks for stopping by! And yes, the virus seems to be receding, thankfully! Must be all that prescribed hot water and honey;-)

And Canadians have for the most part been treating me so well--with the exception of Dr. Hand:-)

Anonymous said...

In fairness, a lot of what we in the States read about Canadian so-called "socialized" health care is bollocks. Unless I'm misinformed (and since I live in a border state, I doubt it), much of their health care system is underwritten by taxes, to a level that you and I would not tolerate in the US. (or we haven't tolerated it thus far, at any rate.) It's just as difficult/horrendous/&c. for a foreign national to get seen to in the US. Not that this would lessen the shock to you, but I'm just trying to inject a little perspective. I'm glad you're feeling better, though. You sound tip-top again. -D.Vick