Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Finances and illness......

We live in a world where the most important determining factor of one's life is not necessary health but rather finances.   It isn't a pleasant thing to say but, if one is honest, it is the reality in which we live here in North America.  One of the major determining factors of whether a person works or doesn't work when they are ill is not what is best for their health but rather whether they can afford it or not!!!!

We are blessed in Canada with a universal health care system which in times of need can be the difference between life and death, literally and financially.   It is often believed that when we get sick that everything will be looked after.   Initially, that is true.  If  you need to be hospitalized for an accident or serious illness, the immediate concerns are looked after and there is no worry that a huge bill will be presented to you as you leave the hospital.   That is a blessing in itself.

What I need to vent about is the idea that when you have a long term, chronic, serious or even short term and out-patient illness or health issue the financial side can be very difficult.  When I was working I had a good job and didn't have to worry about money...I even had a savings account.  There was always enough money ...albeit not much...but enough that if there was an emergency I could probably handle it.   What would constitute an emergency in my life would mainly being able to travel back home if need be because of illness or death in my own family.   That security no longer exists in my life.   I feel guilty complaining as I have enough money to look after myself....but that is it.  There are no extra dollars lying around at the end of the month...and even worse there is absolutely no savings left.   The first couple of years were easier with that little nest egg but alas that has long gone to cover the incidentals over the years.   As for the credit cards, well that in itself is a blog.....did I learn the hard way!

My purpose here is not be complain and whine about is to honestly look at the financial cost of illness especially here in Canada.   Our system looks after hospital expenses which are enormous...but it doesn't look after the gas to and from the hospital, the parking at the hospital, the extra food costs for family during hospital stays.  It doesn't look after the prescriptions that you may get on the way out, and in some situations it doesn't even look after the tests needed or drugs needed while you are hospitalized.   For the individual, it becomes a burden if they no longer work.   Bills remain constant even when the pay cheque changes. Actually, bills increase while the income remains constant as insurance companies don't increase wages for inflation. If it is chronic, the bills begin to pile up, the savings deplete and eventually you learn very quickly how to live literally hand to mouth....counting every penny till the next cheque.  Savings forget it.!!!!!     And those don't include the costs of the pills, medicines and other necessities that might be incurred for the illness.    Often, permanent disability means a loss of benefits, as employers rarely if ever cover that in their insurance premiums.   So at a time when you may find you need drug benefits the most ....they are gone!    Also, if you have an insurance plan or CCP  that is taxable,  again another situation arises where the tax bill grows but the ability to pay it recedes.

I have been ill for 10 plus years....not always in bed ill, but with my disease it is chronic and constant.   I have been blessed with the best people in the world who have given me love, support, and even a hand up at times.   I feel that I am really one of the lucky ones.    Still, there are times when I feel frustrated because in a society that places so much importance on finances, I can't even begin to participate.    My mother is ill, I would dearly like to just take a plane down for a couple of days to see her, but my finances don't allow it.   It isn't that I couldn't find a way, it just isn't as easy as it used to be when I was working and had that little extra.

We are very fortunate to live in a country that has universal health care....and we must fight to keep it...there is a bill that Steven Harper is trying to push through Parliament in March that could see us lose it to multinational corporations.....( that is a whole other aware)    BUT,  it behooves each of us to educate ourselves on exactly what it costs a family to get sick in this is still not a cheap endeavour!!!!!   and again if Mr. Harper has his way it may become even worse!

1 comment:

Katherine Kilcullen said...

Pass a paddle, I'm in the same boat! Fighting for survival is hard enough, but when you factor the illness related costs of transportation and medications, the burden becomes extremely heavy. Without a job and great medical insurance, we are often left feeling likenwe're one step from the edge!

The ironic thing is that stress makes our illnesses worse and then we need even more medical care! People in Canada often think that our medical care is taken care of, but no it is not. Sometimes tough choices like "food OR medicine" have to be made.

Great blog Liz, you hit that burden dead on. Thanks for sharing what us patients are all going through!