The Best of Both Worlds

Should Eastern, or other complementary health care be publicly funded in the same way that Western medicine is–through government-run health insurance plans (here it’s called OHIP–Ontario Health Insurance Plan), supplemented by group insurance plans?  Should there be a system where money is allocated to each individual or family at the beginning of each year for them to spend on their health care they way they see fit? Could we have the best of both worlds of medicine under one system? These are questions I’ve been asking myself, and discussing with others lately.

Our Western health care system in Canada is very good in that anyone can access it regardless of socio-economic status.  Yet this publicly-funded system is deeply flawed, and economics do enter into it. Western doctors are divided into two camps–general medicine (also called family medicine) and specialist medicine. There are fewer specialists than there are general practitioners (GPs), so we wait weeks, months, or sometimes years to see the specialists. If we live in a rural or isolated part of the country we may not even have easy access to the specialists who tend to practice in larger urban centres. Both the generalist’s and the specialist’s services are covered by government insurance plans. Yet there are some who request a fee for services not covered by the plans. There are others who set up their own clinics and request a fee for you to be registered with their practice. Some doctors own or have some connection with pharmacies, labs, and other services. Pharmacies charge dispensing fees for medications on top of the cost of the medication.  Many labs for blood work and other diagnostic tests are run by private corporations even though the facility may be located within the publicly funded hospital. This is our Western medicine system, and whether you want to admit it or not, it’s two-tiered.  If you live in an area well serviced by doctors, and you have money for the medications they prescribe, or you have a group insurance plan that will pay for the medicines, you have good health care. If that is not your reality, this system doesn’t serve you well. I’ve been fortunate to have received excellent care within this system, but I’ve also had to look outside of it when the care I was receiving wasn’t offering the solutions or pain relief I needed, or when the wait time was too long.

In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve had a few health problems.  Fortunately none have been life-threatening but they have affected my quality of life.  Numerous visits to my family doctor, and visits to  specialists and a psychiatrist were all covered by OHIP, and the medication they prescribed was covered by insurance. When the Western medicine no longer offered relief, other complementary care did, starting with chiropractic care and massage therapy, and now including naturopathy, holistic nutritional counselling, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

OHIP covers none of the counselling, treatments, and medications, as it does all of the Western medicine. Some of the complementary medicine has been partially covered by insurance.   Yet all of these practitioners, just like the Western doctors, have trained for years with accredited institutions. Their professions are or soon be will be regulated with strict guidelines governing the practice.

I propose a system that would cover it all. I think it would cost us less than we are paying for our health care system now through our taxes, and we’d be healthier.  Stay tuned.

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