If you’ve lived in Canada your whole life, or if you’re American and have been living under a rock, you may not understand why this was such a BFD for me, but I used my Alberta Health Card today. And it was awesome!
Living in the US, I’ve been insured at times and uninsured at others, and both states suck in their own way. When you’re uninsured, you live in mortal fear of even fairly minor accidents or illnesses. And if you feel REALLY sick, that’s when you least want to go to a doctor because you are terrified you’ll receive a diagnosis that will prevent you from ever having insurance ever again…that dreaded pre-existing condition you’ve heard so much about. If you should actually decide to go to the doctor for some reason, you may be stuck in a position where you have to choose between such luxuries as buying groceries that week or paying the electricity bill. Because, let’s face it, if you have a job that doesn’t offer you benefits, you probably don’t make enough to do all three.
If you are insured, the contortions you have to go through sometimes to actually get your insurance company to pay what they have promised to are truly epic. You still live in fear of accidents and illness because if your insurance company can find a way to get out of paying, you know they will and if it’s really bad, they’ll find a way to drop you. They have lots of experience doing just that and that’s their real business. They have to protect their bottom-line before they protect your health.
So, that’s the mind-set that I am used to. Avoid the doctor at all costs. I know that’s counter-productive in most cases, when it comes to health, but it’s reality for many people. So when I came down with things like sinus-infections, I just dealt with it. And that’s what I was doing here until I noticed the clinic in the shopping center near our neighborhood.
I got my healthcare card a few months ago and when I saw the sign earlier this week, I thought, “It’s time to take that card out for a spin.” So, after I took Ken to work today, I walked over to the clinic.
When I walked in, it was really similar to any clinic I’d ever been to. Sign in at the desk, fill out a short form because I’d never been there before, hand over my card and ID for the receptionist to photo-copy…you know the drill. And then sit down and wait. And because of the stories I’ve heard, I was prepared for a long wait. One of Ken’s co-workers had said it may be 20 minutes, but it might also be 2 hours, so I had a podcast on my phone, a book and a knitting project in my bag, just in case, and even a granola bar and some orange juice because I’d skipped breakfast. I sat down and put the podcast on, took a sip of my orange juice and nearly spilled it down my front as a nurse startled me by calling my name. What?! That wasn’t even 5 minutes, much less 2 hours!!
She took me back to an exam room and told me the doctor would be with me in a minute, and of course, that wasn’t so. I got through the whole podcast, but that’s pretty much what I expected and was used to anyway. So, about 30 minutes later, the doctor came in, asked what was the trouble and I told him I thought I had a sinus infection. He did all the normal doctory things…checking my throat, my ears, lymph nodes, etc. and then gave me a prescription for antibiotics. Easy peasy, right?
Well, this was when I felt the most unsure of myself…did I just walk out? That felt wrong. I mean, you can’t just walk out, right? It can’t really be that easy…I felt nervous…like a thief…like I was trying to get away with something. Surely someone would notice I wasn’t really Canadian…they would follow me out the door and tackle me for stealing healthcare, right? The door was right there…should I just leave? I didn’t know.
So…feeling like an idiot…I asked.
“Do you need anything else from me?” I asked the receptionist in a low voice. I didn’t want anyone else in the waiting room to know about my stupidity. That would just be too embarrassing.
“I’m sorry?” She looked confused.
“Um, do you need anything else from me….” I asked again.
“No, that’s it, you’re done,” she said, smiling up at me.
“Awesome!” I said and broke into a huge, stupid grin. At which she laughed and said, “Welcome to Canada!”
Oh…and those antibiotics? $2.22. So, you know…it’s not totally free.