I have not had health insurance for almost a year, and this week, I had my first doctor's visit without insurance. I have a spider bite on my ankle, and it has swelled and itched and turned a slight purple color. It's not a life-threatening bite, but it's still worrisome.
One of my roommates is an occupational therapist and took some pre-nursing classes in college. She knows a good deal more than I do about these medical-related things, and she was concerned after it had been red and puss-filled for a few days.
One of her co-workers is a physical therapist/wound-care specialist, and she graciously looked at the bite on her lunch break. She told me there wasn't much she could do and recommended going to an urgent care facility or community clinic.
Then another one of her co-workers helped me look up free clinics and recommended one she used when she was sans-insurance. So I went there after visiting the hospital, and they told me they weren't accepting any new patients. Instead, they gave me a list of medical facilities around the city where I could find "affordable" car.
I called several places, only to find that most of the clinics for the uninsured are all booked, not accepting new patients. So I settled for an urgent care clinic near my neighborhood, which is decidedly low-income and more likely to be home to the uninsured.
So after the ordeal of searching for a place that would not break my bank account or overload my credit card, I was able to see a doctor. He told me he's pretty sure it's only a spider bite and it's not infected. He said some doctors prescribe steroids for spider bites to reduce swelling and itching, but he doesn't like to do that because of potentially harmful side affects. It ended up costing me $65.
I'm partially relieved it's not more serious and that it didn't cost me too much. At the same time, I'm still frustrated because the system is clearly not working. I spent $65 at a cheaper clinic for a 10 minute consultation. Had he given me a prescription, I'm sure it would have cost me at least another $30. While a spider bite is troubling, something so minor should not cost so much.
No one should be searching for the "best deal" on health care, and cost should never take precedence over quality. But that's the way it is right now, and the non-profit community clinics are strained and overbooked.
I know I'm gambling, but I'm also the victim of a fucked-up system. I'm not sure what the solution is, but the more I deal with this system, the better Canada's looks.