Health Care is Not "Free"- You Need to Plan Ahead
A Personal View By: Amecia Davis
Canada is known for its "Free Health Care,"; but what does it truly mean, what is truly free? We all know the saying: "you get what you pay for" or "Nothing in life is free." For example, it is expected that we all pay taxes once enough income is earned. Taxes help build our economy, and you guessed it, pays towards our health care system. Ontario has a health care plan called OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan), governed by the Federal and Provincial governments (What is the Ontario health insurance PLAN (OHIP), 2018). This insurance pays for medically necessary services for once we show our OHIP card. But what is deemed medically necessary? What I consider essential may not be for you. Ontario Health care provides many services; however, I will focus on services directed to help our senior citizens.
Ageing is part of life's journey, and with it comes health complications. Although we may wish to age in our home, changes in our health sometimes alter our plans. Depending on the severity [such as Alzheimer's], staying at home can bring harm our loved ones and us. In comparison, some people trust nursing homes (LTC), and some remain reluctant. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking us by storm, our eyes were opened to the many issues surrounding our healthcare system, particularly nursing homes (LTC). In an environment where due diligence and safety were highest, Long-Term Care (LTC) homes had an overall fatality rate of 27.8% (Stall et al., 2020).
Now, I do not say this to scare or alter your mindset. There has been an issue surrounding our LTC system for many years; unfortunately, COVID-19 shined a brighter light on these problems. The purpose of our LTC homes is to care for individuals with chronic health conditions (Kothari et al., 2017). Cost is important when determining whether to stay at home or live in a nursing home (LTC). The average price for publicly funded home care in Ontario is $125,000 per year, depending on services required (Facts & figures - publicly funded home care, 2014). According to Home Care Ontario, "caring for terminally ill patients in an acute-care hospital is estimated to cost over 40% more than providing care in a hospital-based palliative-care unit, more than double the cost of providing care in a hospice bed, and over ten times more than providing at-home care" (Facts & figures - publicly funded home care, 2014). The Ontario government attempts to help, but the annual cost and tax deductions supply limited services.
Ontario's primary health care community program is the Local Health Integrated Network (LHIN), now called Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSS). HCCSS work with health care providers to improve access to health services and support individuals in their private homes, supportive housing programs, and long-term care homes (Government of Ontario, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 2021). Sounds great, right? We must be grateful for our nation's willingness to help in a situation we have no control over. In comparison to other countries where health care is private, we can appreciate it more. However, there is a reason why private home care companies exist. Person accessibility to service through HCCSS depends on their personal healthcare needs and eligibility (Government of Ontario, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 2021). Also, the waiting list to enter a nursing home could be as long as 459 people at one specified home. Hence, they allow individuals to apply to five [max] homes (Long-term Care Home Wait Time Information, 2021). Unfortunately, demand exceeds supply.
This article is not to push private health care upon you. But let's admit it, unless your insurance help covers the cost, the burden our government has taken will transfer to us through taxation. So, instead, this article is to inform and promote proactive behaviours.
Suggestions to navigate:
Don't wait until the last minute
A proactive health and wellness regimen can reduce chronic health conditions, but it does not prevent them from accruing. First, understand and accept your current health conditions. Then, plan accordingly for the seen and unforeseeable circumstances.
Do your research
The government provides tax credit and funding to help assist with in-home care, for example, the Senior's Home Safety Tax Credit. This funding helped make senior homes safer and more accessible.
Go through HCCSS's process and discover the type of services you may be entitled to
Call your insurance and find out what and how much you are covered
Use Private Homecare services to fill in the gap
Ageing and health care do not have to be scary, and a well-informed individual will be able to navigate the system. Take control of your health and see the benefits of your actions.