Monday, 20 August 2007

Do we have a healthcare system?

We Canadians are very proud of our publicly funded healthcare.It is certainly far better than the US (though they are exceptionally bad in any international comparison) and better than what it was before Tommy Douglas. But it is not at all comprehensive, and some of the gaps in coverage really do need attention.

For example, BC no longer pays for eye tests. There is no excuse for this at all. We have a population with rapidly increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes, so the risk of going blind is increasing. Regular eye checks are necessary to detect the presence of glaucoma. Once the optic nerve is damaged it cannot be repaired, so detection is essential if treatment is to be prescribed early enough to be effective. But if you do not wear glasses, or you don't see any difference in your sight since the last test, you may skip an eye exam or two. From the patient's perspective, glaucoma is symptomless. But new noninvasive tests can determine very accurately the extent of the disease very early on.

An eye exam now costs $75. The eye drops to treat glaucoma in one eye cost around $100 for three months. If you are in full time employment with a good healthcare plan - or are related to someone who is - then this may not be a problem. But I suggest that very few middle income families could absorb these kinds of costs without noticing. And yet the prescription eye drops can put off the need for much more expensive surgery - which will be covered by the Medical Services Plan.

There are plenty of other examples where medication can reduce or eliminate the need for surgery, so MSP coverage of medications would be highly cost effective and reduce the need for surgeries, whose wait list are only growing at present. For instance, treating osteoporosis instead of replacing hips.

You need to think about this the next time Mr Harper or Mr Campbell tell you how well they have managed their budgets and how big the surplus is. Those surpluses are the product of denying effective health care to low and moderate income Canadians.

And don't get me started about having to pay for an ambulance in an emergency.

1 comment:

Ollie Onions said...

Thank you for the info on eye exams.