Doc Treats Man
Well, it looks like health care, recently pronounced on the road to wellville, if not entirely hale and hearty, is once again limping around on the US political stage. (Remember those 90s-era editorial hosannas to the brave new world of managed care and the free-market discipline it would impose on runaway health care costs? I do. Good times, good times.)
Because of its timeliness, and because my friends back in the US display a surprising fascination with Stories From the Land of Single Payer, I thought I'd share with Correntians my mundane experience with our adoptive country's health delivery system.
Today I had to pay my second visit to our local clinic for treatment of an annoying case of tennis elbow.
My earlier visit, my initial foray into deepest Canadian health care wilderness, went like this: I walked into the clinic, informed them that my CareCard had not yet arrived in the mail, but that I wanted to see a doctor. I was politely asked to wait 10 minutes and meanwhile pay $56 (~$45US), which I did via credit card. The receptionist further suggested that I go by the provincial building after my visit to see if I had been issued a Provincial Helath Number yet; if I had been, I could bring that back and they'd credit back the money. I saw the doc, who diagnosed the tennis elbow, prescribed ibuprofen and ice, and sent me on my way with a recommendation to follow up in two weeks. I then went by the Provincial building, where they were indeed able to pull up my family's as-yet-unissued health care numbers. I returned to the clinic, gave them the numbers and they credited back the $56.
Today's visit was just as eventful. This time I called in the morning and was offered an appointment in an hour. At the appointed hour, I presented myself to the receptionist, and then waited 15 minutes or so for the doc. After putting my arm through a brief series of tests and describing the etiology and possible courses of treatment, he wrote me two scrips, one a referral for physicial therapy and another for a topical steroid. I thanked him and left for the therapist's office, where I set up an appointment for the day after tomorrow.
I then walked over to the local Pharmasave and handed the second scrip to the pharmacist, along with my employer-paid prescription drug insurance card. She asked me to wait 20 minutes while they ran the card and filled the prescription.
With 20 minutes to kill, I decided to explore another aspect of Canadian society different from that of my native land. I walked across the street and up steep hillside stairs to The Holy Smoke Culture Shop and Psyche-Delly. Skirting some local customers lounging on a bench just outside the door, I entered into a small room jammed with flyers, posters, what appeared to be a shrine to Ganesha, and a counter displaying all manner of pipes, scales, papers, and seed packets. The room was heavy with smoke, though not the aroma I remembered from much younger days. A couple sat at a table in the corner talking and sipping coffee. A slender, attractive young woman in nose ring and partial dredlocks got up and drifted behind the register, where she politely asked if I needed assistance.
Feeling like a 16-year-old buying condoms for the first time, I abandoned pretense; honesty best policy and all that. "Yes, um, to be blunt, we're somewhat new in town, and I haven't bought pot in nearly 30 years but my spouse is interested in trying it for the first time and I figure, what the hell." (My spouse, who was a county prosecutor for 18 years, was the only one in her office who had never tried drugs before joining, I'm proud to note. Ironically enough, she was also the only prosecutor not rotated into the Drug Unit. Takes one to convict one, I guess.) "--I gather it's relatively easy to find around here. Is that true?"
She replied smoothly and without a hint of condescension that indeed, it was quite simple and "if you just go around the corner, I'm sure you'll get taken care of." Thinking she meant maybe Baker and Ward, I asked, which corner?
"That one," she replied, pointing to the doorway behind her.
The sales area around the corner consisted of another counter behind which a young man in a black t-shirt stood before a spotlit tray of what looked like very small Christmas trees, a square of chocolate and some dried cranial matter. "What can I do for you?"
I stumbled through my spiel again.
"No problem." And gesturing to the tray in front of him he proceeded to reel off the pedrigree of each item. I was unable to keep up; basically it sounded like a travel brochure for Southeast Asia, until he got to "...and this is Moroccan hash, and we also have mushrooms," pointing proudly to the cranial matter.
Demurring on the shrooms, I asked for a recommendation for a first timer, and he picked up a jade green bud whose provenance I did not catch. "So a couple of joints' worth then?" I said yes. He plopped it on the scale, pinched off a litle, added a little back, then stuffed it into a tiny baggie. "$10."
I returned to Pharmasave to find my prescription waiting for me. The insurance company had paid out directly, leaving me owing $2.06 on a $20 bill. Paying that, I walked home, stopping by the local microroaster for a pound of beans. I took a plunge on "P&H's Addiction", an Indonesian/African blend, for $15.
The entire trip took 2 hours and aside from the two prescriptions, the only papers I had touched were the new packet of Rizla's in my pocket. The only ID I had to produce was my insurance card. And to recap, the bill for this pharmaceutical excursion?
Diclofenac ointment: $2
A country with sane priorities: priceless.