Saturday, February 03, 2007

Is Universal Health Care a Myth?

A friend of mine, whose 5-year-old son has a severe nut allergy, recently invited me over to dinner. On her counter sat some self-injectable epinephrine that her son had just outgrown by weight. The epinephrine had almost a year left to expiry and you could tell by the sealed packaging that they were never tampered with, yet she had a hard time convincing children’s hospitals or children’s shelters to accept them. At $100 each, not all parents could afford the peace of mind that the epinephrine provides.

I was aghast that such an essential drug cost so much. Should her son come into accidental contact with nuts, the epinephrine could literally save his life. Yet in our universal health care system, a life saving drug is something only the rich can afford. This led me to question the universality of our public system.

In my limited research, I found that in Ontario, we have options for low-income households to receive subsidized prescription drugs from the province. However, finding the information was complex and I had a hard time discerning what drugs do and don’t qualify for the program. I am led to believe that no matter how much we protest, our health care is multi-tiered. The rich (who tend to have jobs that pay benefits) can get their drugs covered, and where there are gaps in coverage, they tend to have enough education to go seek out complex government subsidies.

Information must be made more readily available and the Ontario Government should strive to close this gap in medical care.

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