more answers

You guys provided some very interesting answers to my question about the recent Canadian Supreme Court decision.

ALPF thoughtfully sent me these letters to the Globe and Mail, which are excellent for getting the spectrum of opinion.

One commonly held point of view is that allowing private health insurance amounts to "Americanizing" the system. I would say those readers may not really understand what we have here in the US. The Canadian health care system won't be Americanized until it's abolished, and that's clearly not happening.

Since the decision applies only to Quebec, this strikes me as a very useful experiment, really. In a few years, the rest of the country will be able to judge if this was a fatal blow, a useful improvement, or somewhere in between.

* * * *

Having read all the letters, I have two additional thoughts.

One, several people mention that Paul Martin slashed funding to Health Canada, resulting in the current, infamous long waiting times. Is it possible this trend will be reversed any time soon? Meaning, will funding be restored? Or is that a thing of the past?

And two, on a personal note, I have concerns about finding a family doctor. Is it true this is very difficult in Ontario?

I have several ongoing health issues. My life took a very positive turn when I found a good doctor here in New York. I had been misdiagnosed - and accordingly mistreated - for seven years by an overbearing doctor who didn't listen. Finding a good doc who takes me seriously opened the door to a better life for me. I'm sad to leave her care, and finding a good doctor (with or without a shortage - just finding someone I trust) has been a concern in the back of my mind for some time - one of those nagging fears about the move. Will it really be that hard to find a doctor in or near Toronto?


Anonymous said...

Well, it's certainly easier in the more rural areas than the cities. The tradeoff of course is smaller clinics and in some cases less equipment (certainly not the newest anyway) but for general practitioner care that's not really too big an issue.

In the city, the clinics are better, but the lines are longer. I wouldn't say it's impossible to get care, but there can be waiting lists. It's not like you have to wait for someone to move or die before you can get in or anything. There are openings - but finding the right one is always tricky. Make the search priority #1 as soon as you get here.

First up, you will need to get a Health Card so you're covered. This can be done at a Ministry of Health Office. Then, as for finding a doctor, one place to try is the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). They hava a Doctor Search that will show contact info for who is in your area, plus in most cases whether or not they are accepting new patients.

Actually, I just did a search and you know what? It's not so bad. According to the CPSO website, there are none in Ceder Point accepting new patients, but there are 21 in Oakville, 126 in Mississauga and 542 in Toronto. Now, how many of these are accessible from where you are, how many are small clinics as opposed to an actual family doctor, I am unsure (though I believe the bulk are family doctors). So you may be in luck.

Ontario Ministry of Health
You will need to find an OHIP office to apply for Health Insurance and take part in our wonderful public system. You can find that office, and other useful info about OHIP, on this site.

Hit the Doctor Search link and you're all set to find a doc.

Relocate Canada
There is some handy info here, not just on health, either.

Geez, it just hit me - I am a librarian after all! Eeeekkkk!!! Should send this to my former profs and say how's that for a reference search, huh? (sorry, residual bitterness from the MLIS)

Hope this is helpful.

laura k said...

Thank you, G. It's very helpful, and even more importantly, it's reassuring.

I have info on applying for a Health Canada card, along with the 10,000,000 other things I'll have to do after moving. CIC is actually very good at linking you to all that stuff - things like how to get a driver's license, insurance and such.

With our visas, they included a little postcard - it looks like a tourist come-on (kind of amusing - the faces of all the happy immigrants!) - with a website that's a clearinghouse for this kind of stuff. I don't have it with me at the moment (I'm at work), but I believe it's here.

I've spoken to our family doctor (and our vet!) about having a six-months supply of our various medications, so I won't have to panic if it takes a little while. But still...

laura k said...

Oh, Relocate Canada! I recall bookmarking that site about two years ago. To think now I'll actually use it! Very cool, thanks again.

Anonymous said...

One more for you:


This site is amazing. Links to every Ontario government site, and any government service you could need ... also some Federal stuff as well. It's a big site so you'll have to play with it to find everything, but boy is it a good resource - I've not seen much better. The online forms section alone (top right of the site) is incredibly handy. Check out the life events section also.

You can download the Health Coverage application form here (pdf), which is linked with other health info off of this page of ServiceOntario. You can speed up the process by printing off the pdf form above and having it ready when you visit the Ministry of Health office to apply. Plus it's good to know what they require!

Bookmark http://www.serviceontario.ca nonetheless. As I librarian I can tell you it is the best resource you could have if moving to Ontario.

laura k said...

Wow, thanks SO much. This is great.

Ontario apparently is the only province where you can't apply for health care right away. You have to be living there 150 days before you can even apply. So I'll have no choice but to handle other stuff first.

laura k said...

I just took a brief peek, and I see what you mean. It pays to know a librarian!

Anonymous said...

Sadly that is true.

One of the shitty things about this province, but logistically-speaking somewhat sensible given its size and the number of migrants here as opposed to other provinces.

From the Ontario Ministry of Health questions and answers page:


Am I eligible for OHIP right away or do I have to wait ?

There may be a three-month waiting period for your OHIP coverage.

If you are a newcomer to Ontario, or a former resident returning here to live after being out of the country for more than seven months, the waiting period begins on the date you establish or re-establish residence in Ontario. You are also required to be present in Ontario for 153 days of the first 183 days immediately following the date residency is established in Ontario (you cannot be absent for more than 30 days during the first 6 months of residency).

If you are an eligible resident moving to Ontario from another part of Canada, the health insurance of your former province/territory will cover you for up to three months.

If you are not covered by another the health insurance of another province/territory, it is important to buy private health insurance to cover you until you receive your Ontario health coverage.

For more information :
Contact a private insurance company directly or call the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc. at 1 800-268-8099. In Toronto, call 416-777-2344.

laura k said...

Yeah, it makes sense. I've read that it's also because so many immigrants first land in Ontario, but don't end up settling there, they move elsewhere. So it guards against the system getting clogged up with temporary residents.

I figure we'll just take our meds and be careful crossing streets for a few months.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Personally, I go to a walk-in clinic whenever possible. It takes weeks (or months) to get in to see my family doctor. However, he also happens to work in the walk-in clinic, and since I know what hours he works I can usually get in to see him those days.

However, I no longer live near that clinic, so I generally go to a different one now. I only see my family doctor now for physicals. Chronic conditions are usually referred to a specialist anyway, so I don't feel I need to see him.

Still, if your persistant you'll find a family doctor, though you might have to go through a few to find one you really like

laura k said...

That sounds ok, especially since you can (or used to) see your doctor at the clinic anyway.

Walk-in clinics are fine for whatever comes up. I've heard good things about the walk-in clinics in several provinces.

I do need a family doctor on a regular basis, though - at least a few times a year. I had to go several here before I found someone I was in sync with, so I can live with that. If there aren't any to be found, though... that would be tough.

Jubileee said...

Sounds like I need to move to TO if I want a doctor. Ever since my family doctor retired (5 years ago) I haven't been able to get a new one. It sucks.

laura k said...

That does suck. Is it because there are no doctors available where you live?

B. W. Ventril said...

I don't know if this came up in the older discussion of the Supreme Court decision (I'm behind on my comment reading!), but Britain provides an interesting contrast in this whole debate.

In the UK the situation that many fear will result from this decision is the norm: there's a national healthcare system, but private care is also allowed. So rich people tend to go on BUPA (the big private system) and everyone else goes on the NHS.

It's hard for me to compare the two countries as aside from six months I haven't really lived in the UK since I was 17, but my impressionistic sense is that the Canadian system is in better shape than the NHS. That said, there could be more regional variation: I have family who have had spartan experiences in Montreal, and I know rural areas are problematic. Then again, Canada is a huge country. In Ottawa everything has been great, both in my own experience and for people I know.

The presence of BUPA clearly hasn't doomed the NHS. At the same time, though, the rich have no investment in the system, and there's definitely a greater sense of social inequality than in Canada. Rich Canadians can of course head to the US, though less so for routine or minor appointments. For serious stuff there's already a de facto private system in Canada (private US medicine), but in a day to day sense I think there's a greater sense in Canada that everyone is in the same boat, and so perhaps more accountability.

Then again it's been years since I've lived in Canada too, so I may not know what I'm talking about! I do think the situation in both Britain and Canada is much better than in the US.

Except when I put on my magic glasses that make all the poor people disappear... Then the US system is second to none.

laura k said...

And those magic glasses have to filter out a lot of not-poor people, too. Plenty of middle class Americans are only middle class if they stay healthy.

Anyway, thanks BWV. I was hoping someone would weigh in with a perspective from the UK.

And btw, we're all behind on comment-reading, because comments are out of control! Rob and Loneprimate have been going at it nonstop in several threads. I'm waiting for the storm to blow over.

B. W. Ventril said...

As someone on a shitty self-bought, high-deductible, high-premium, avoid going to the doctor because I can't really afford it right now health insurance plan, I heartily concur. I don't know if I'm middle class yet, but I guess I will be soon.

barefoot hiker said...

Rob and Loneprimate have been going at it nonstop in several threads. I'm waiting for the storm to blow over.

Oh, all the big winds in Canada seem to come out of the west. But we weather them. :)

Anonymous said...

Warning:Shameless Self Promotion

I've been having my own go at it with Rob here. Stop by and join in the fun!

(sorry for that shameless bit but I just HAD to throw that in - narcissism acting up again, I think)


I have to say, I honestly appreciate Rob's views - and those of others who challenge our views - it is always good to hear the other side of any argument. Whether or not we agree with what the other has to say, it is always enlightening nonetheless. So I do thank Rob et al for their contributions and hope they continue to challenge all of us with their beliefs. Debate is the only way anyone can ever come to understanding.

laura k said...

Oh, all the big winds in Canada seem to come out of the west. But we weather them. :)

No offense, LP, but this big wind clearly comes from your direction...

...it is always good to hear the other side of any argument.

I do, too - but not always on my own blog. I enjoy debate more elsewhere. You know my whole thing about this being my little haven from strife.

That said, respectful counter-views like Rob's and David's are always welcome here, accent on the word respectful.

laura k said...

Oh, the link CIC sent with our visas is Direction Canada. See all the happy people from the postcard.

barefoot hiker said...

Oh, all the big winds in Canada seem to come out of the west. But we weather them. :)

No offense, LP, but this big wind clearly comes from your direction...

Oh, that's Quebec; I got nothing to do with that. :)

laura k said...

Oh, that's Quebec; I got nothing to do with that. :)


barefoot hiker said...

My real concern with all this is the fear that it's the thin edge of the wedge. It's not hard to imagine a situation in which people with the means abandon the single-payer system, and the realities of politics relegate it to a system for the poor who are resigned to substandard treatment and a shorter lifespan. It's just my feeling that the existence of a parallel system and the "I'm alright, Jack" attitude it would foster in those of sufficient means could -- and I honestly do not say this to provoke Rob in particular -- enable conservative governments and cash-strapped liberal ones to shortchange the Medicare system... hardly inconceivable, since that's what happened provincially in Ontario on the one hand and federally in Canada on the other, without there even being a profit system. I'm very leery of opening that can of worms and going back to the way things were before the 1960s. The US has set some great examples in the world, but how to run a fair and humane health care system isn't one of their best.

laura k said...

"My real concern with all this is the fear that it's the thin edge of the wedge."

Right. What I was calling the slippery slope. I understand that.

Do you have a take on my more personal issue, finding a family doctor in my area?

barefoot hiker said...

Do you have a take on my more personal issue, finding a family doctor in my area?

I wish I did, but so far I haven't had many issues. I guess my experience has been like Kyle's. On the occasion I have had issues, I've just gone to walk-in clinics. I would expect, though, that if I had an on-going health issue, they'd be able to refer me to someone. I can't claim to have tested that yet, but I know that several of my friends have "family" doctors, and my parents, who moved from one city in Ontario to another a few years ago, also seem to have managed to find an attentive one without any trouble.