An expat in Vancouver first observations: health care

Today marks the end of my first week as an official Vancouver resident. This was an easy move because we did not have far to go (from Oregon), there are no language barriers in dealing with mainstream society, and the environment is very similar to what we left.

And yet, there are differences. As in all foreign cultures, the reasons for why things are done a certain way reveal much about differences. E.g., there is a lot of Chinese acupuncture here. It would be obvious to assume the reason is the large Chinese population. True, but more pertinent is the fact that traditional acupuncture is covered by health plans because of that large Chinese population.

This is so different from the US, where acupuncture is not covered by mainstream insurance plans, nor is there any acceptance that I am aware of any health treatment that originates from one of the US big ethnic segments. Are Korean herbs covered in Koreatown, Los Angeles?

I’ve noticed a lot of therapeutic yoga on offer. Again, this is because many health plans cover it as a treatment, for multiple sclerosis in particular (MS is more common in the Pacific Northwest than in many other parts of the continent, one theory being that the lack of sun and Vitamin D are to blame). If it were covered in the US, there would be the same incentive for studios to offer it.

We’re learning a lot about the famous Canadian health care system. As in the US, it is beset by political debates. Of course, there is virtually no debate on whether or not it should exist. The arguments center on how to improve delivery and quality and keep costs under control.

It is also not “free” if you consider the taxes (high) paid to insure everyone. There are also fees, such as on prescriptions. Drugs aren’t cost-free, but what you pay is determined by income. That seems fair. What a concept.

About kmazz

I spend as much time as possible pursuing my interests in global culture, photography, arts and politics.
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2 Responses to An expat in Vancouver first observations: health care

  1. raincoaster says:

    Correction: sometimes drugs are free, depending on your income. And all drugs dispensed within the hospital itself are free, although now for tracking and “making the patients appreciate what we do for them” reasons, they all have price stickers on them now.

    One of the reasons so many alternative/complementary therapies and activities are covered is that they save the insurers money in the long run, because they are preventative and/or cheaper than the regular Western Medicine cures. I had a medical condition for which the doctor offered me an expensive surgery (covered, of course, but still expensive) or an expensive prescription. I went to Chinatown, got some herbs, and my symptoms vanished within two weeks. Cost: $16 for a two-month dose, which was sufficient to eradicate the condition as far as I can tell to this day.

  2. kmazz says:

    You’d think US insurers would realize that covering alternative therapies saved them money. Can you send them some of the Canadian studies to prove this point? I too have had success with acupuncture and naturapathy that allopathy would have treated at a higher cost with probably poor results.

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