Although Canada has so-called “free” universal health care for its citizens, diabetics may have to pay for their own diabetic testing supplies & diabetes drugs.
Many of us in the United States seem to envy the Canadian health care system. The few details that are passed on to us by the popular media make it sound as if health care for everyone North of the border, including diabetics, is essentially “free”. Not so, according to Canada’s own media though.
An article in today’s edition of The Daily Gleaner gives some insight into the reality of the situation for diabetes patients in Canada.
One of the rather startling facts we discovered is that the government does NOT pay for all of your medical expenses or testing supplies in most cases. In fact, the average amount of out-of-pocket expenses for a New Brunswick resident with diabetes is a whopping $3,400 (Canadian) per year. Since residents of the province of New Brunswick have lower than average salaries as compared to the rest of Canada, diabetics there can be especially hard hit.
In fact, a recent Canadian study found that 57% of the nation’s diabetes patients are not complying with their prescribed therapies because of out-of-pocket expenses associated with diabetic testing supplies and medications.
Who’s Covered? Who’s Hozed?
Without getting into too much detail, the quality of health care coverage you receive as a Canadian citizen tends to depend upon where you work, much as in the United States. Some jobs offer better benefits to their employees than others. If you are diabetic, or a member of your immediate family is diabetic, it pays to have a job that offers extensive health care coverage.
Unlike the rosy press coverage of the Canadian health care system that we usually see here in the States, it seems that there are quite a few Canadian diabetics who slip between the cracks when it comes to coverage. Canadian health care has many of the same problems as privatized health care here in the United States, but we rarely tend to hear anything about it.
Diabetic Supplies and Drugs. Where Is It Cheaper?
Another myth about Canadian health care that we also recently discovered to not be true was the supposed bargain basement prices of Canadian pharmacies vs. their U.S. counterparts. Although the Canadian government does regulate the price of prescription drugs in that country, and in many cases makes them available for sale much cheaper than you can buy them for anywhere in the U.S., it’s not always the case. In fact, ordering many drugs through Canadian pharmacies may end up costing you more than you would pay at a discount pharmacy like Wal-Mart.
In general, the biggest savings you will find at Canadian pharmacies are on name-brand (non-generic) prescription drugs. Chances are that if you are an American who already uses generic drugs, or could find a generic counterpart for the non-generic drug you are now using, you can likely get a 90-day supply of the same medication cheaper from a pharmacy here in the U.S. than from one in Canada.
Although most Canadian mail order pharmacies are completely legitimate, even the most legitimate ones tend to cut corners by having their drugs drop-shipped directly from places like India, Barbados or the U.K. In many cases, an American ordering drugs from a Canadian pharmacy will receive their shipment directly from India, having never passed through Canada at all. Few, if any, of the drugs you will receive from a Canadian pharmacy are actually manufactured in Canada. For a more detailed explanation of how this scam works, see the report “But it’s a Canadian Internet Pharmacy”: Telling the Truth .
Just as an example, a friend of mine recently ordered a prescription drug from an online Canadian pharmacy that offered much, much lower prices than he could have obtained them for in the U.S. Unfortunately, the drugs arrived weeks later than expected, due to the fact that the drug was actually being shipped from Europe, where a volcano in Greenland had recently grounded all international flights. This is rarely something you will find Canadian pharmacies stating up-front. You are generally not told where your order will be shipped from until after it is placed.
Canada Diabetes Wrap-Up
While the health care system here in the United States is definitely messed-up, we are certainly not alone in that department. I suspect that no country has instituted a high-quality health care system that helps everyone, in all cases, at no personal expense, without exceptions. The best treatment you can receive for diabetes is still prevention, regardless of what country you live in.
UPDATE: June 4, 2010 – Since we originally released this article yesterday, we came across another interesting statistic that makes the situation for diabetics in Canada sound even more dire. One of the original quotes in the above article mentioned, “… a recent Canadian study found that 57% of the nation’s diabetes patients are not complying with their prescribed therapies because of out-of-pocket expenses associated with diabetic testing supplies and medications.”
Compare that to a quote we just uncovered about a recent study on out-of-pocket expenses for health care coverage in the USA, “… a survey by CVS/pharmacy found that 29 percent of people with diabetes had not filled a prescription due to the expense in the past 12 months.”
In the original article’s feedback section, one Canadian stated that, “We are in the same boat my wife and I both have diabetes and she also has a chronic disability that requires medication that is very expensive. Our drug plan only covers half, so we can’t afford it all the time and she goes without it.” Other posts about the article echoed similar stories.
So, according to both studies, Canadians are nearly twice as likely to cut back on their diabetes treatment due to lack of money as diabetics in The United States. Keep in mind that Canadians are already paying a staggering amount of taxes each year for their own version of “universal health coverage”, yet the amount of diabetics who can’t afford adequate treatment in Canada is actually much higher than here. Does this mean that future changes to America’s health care coverage from a privatized system to a government-controlled system could result in an increase of cases where diabetics are unable to pay for their medications? Unfortunately, only time will tell.
Yet Another Update!: June 8, 2010 – It seems that Canadians aren’t the only ones left out in the cold when it comes to having to pay for diabetes testing supplies under “universal healthncare”. We found this recent quote at the website of Diabetes Education Voices. “There is no insurance for glucose testing supplies in Taiwan – but the cost was 30-50% of typical non-covered U.S. drugstore costs.”
So, it seems that being able to “shop around” for the best deals on things like test strips is about the only “benefit” diabetics get under yet another country’s form of socialized medicine, or universal health care coverage. Either way you look at it, diabetics are the ones getting the short end of the stick.
Another, Another Update!: June 9, 2009 – I just ran across yet another story of how socialized medicine is failing diabetics. READ HERE about the story of an 8 year old boy in the U.K. who recently died from complications of diabetes after emergency dispatchers (they use 999 as opposed to 911 here in the U.S.) decided that he was not ill enough to warrant having an ambulance sent to take him to the hospital. The boy died two days later from diabetic ketoacidosis. If this had happened here in the United States, you could bet that someone would be getting sued. As it is, since the government was basically running the entire operation, no one is going to be held responsible. An inquiry has already been held in the matter. No one even lost their jobs over the incident.