albertya

I admit it. Americans can be spoiled brats about many things, one of these being health care. Many Americans are not covered properly, and as a result others are screaming for Obamacare and other government-run options. I agree that we need healthcare for everyone. I’m just not sure it must be government-directed health care.

I’ve always paid for my health care, either through an employer or on my own when self-employed. It’s never been cheap. In fact, it is often hideously expensive, but I value my health, and so I have always paid top-dollar for health care.

I continue to do so today, opting to shell out hundreds of dollars a month for Tom and me to be covered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. We are covered in the States, and for some of our medical treatment here in Canada.

When we can get to a doctor, that is.

See, we’re also covered by Alberta Health Services, which everyone who lives here is entitled to. Sounds wonderful, right? Sounds like what we’re pushing for in the States.

But the truth of the matter is, it’s ridiculously difficult to get a doctor here. Few doctors are taking new patients, and many of those who are taking new patients are new to the region themselves, immigrants who are entering the health system and trying to build up their client list.

I’ll admit it. A new immigrant to Canada is not my first choice for a doctor. What do I know of their background, their training, their ability? I know I’ll take some heat for this, but I want to be able to gauge their medical bona fides before I submit to their care.

It’s not that I need a white American male as my doctor. I’ve had doctors in the States and in Brazil who were from the US, the Philippines, Singapore, Brazil, Argentina, and Denmark, both male and female. What they all had in common was that I trusted them, and was able to communicate with them.

The greatest problem here is that you cannot see a specialist without a referral from your primary doctor. And you can’t get into see a primary doctor without a several-weeks wait once you find one.

There is a website where patients can find a primary doctor. I called several of these doctors, and was repeatedly informed that they were no longer taking new patients, despite what the website said. Typical wait time to see a new doctor is reported to be 9 days. I doubt it.

Last week, I called one doctor, whose receptionist asked immediately whether I was a “chronic pain” patient. I said no. She asked again. I asked her why she needed to know. She asked why I was asking her why. To stop the merry-go-round, I said it sounded like she was screening possible clients, and I thought that was unethical. She replied that they were no longer taking chronic-pain patients, and asked again if I was one. No, I’m not. Then she asked if I regularly took pain medication (see that little gem of a run-around question?). I said no, I rarely use pain medication (Advil being my medication of choice; is that even “pain medication”?). She then replied that the doctor wasn’t accepting new patients for six months, despite what the government health website said. I queried why six months. “Because we already have our quota.” Whereupon I informed her that I wouldn’t select their office even if they did have an opening.

Several calls later, I found a doctor who was actually taking new patients … I’ll do a meet-and-greet with her in three weeks. Not an actual appointment with the doctor, but a pre-appointment — to see if the doctor will take me!

Meanwhile, I cannot meet with a dermatologist or have my annual woman’s checkup, because those doctors require a referral from my primary doctor. When I do get a referral, it’ll likely be weeks or months before I can get in to see the specialist (if Tom’s and our neighbor’s experience is any indication; though Tom got in a bit faster than usual when he said he also has private health insurance…).

I’ve been to a chiropractor here, but that isn’t covered by Alberta Healthcare. I’ve also been to see a naturopath, but that isn’t covered either. Money out of my pocket when I needed care NOW.

Government-run health? Not a fan so far. The jury is still out, though, since I haven’t yet seen an actual doctor covered by the plan.

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