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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Cost of Being Sick

I recently needed some emergency surgery and the recovery gave me some time to ponder about the cost of being ill.  Thanks to the wonderful no-cost-per-use health care system that we enjoy in Canada, I did not have to pay for my stay in hospital, the surgery, and the pain medication I received while there (or the meals for that matter).  However, there were a few financial and personal costs to this unanticipated event.
First, I had to be transported from home to the hospital by ambulance.  If you have never taken an ambulance trip, beware: there is often a cost that is billed to the patient afterwards.  Mine is $45 (obviously that is not the entire cost of an ambulance trip; it’s just the portion charged to the patient).
Second, there were some costs to my family: once admitted for an overnight, I needed some basic supplies: toiletries, reading material for something to do during my recovery, some clean clothing (underwear, shoes) etc.  While these were found easily at my home, it required someone to come to the hospital to visit me (the visit was lovely).  Financial costs included transportation and parking (many hospitals are downtown and parking can be very expensive).  Even without the need for some personal effects, my family (and yours possibly) wanted to visit and make sure I was all right.
Third, once I got back home, I had some prescription medication to take for a few days (your medical insurance from college/university/your parents should cover most of the cost); I could not do anything physically taxing for a while, including cooking (yes, you need to stand to cook and I needed to sit or lie down mostly) which increased our food expenses.  I also had a special diet for a few days (increased food expenses).
Forth, I had to miss a few days of work because of the surgery (even though it was minor surgery, I was ‘lucky’ my time in the hospital was mostly over the weekend – it minimized my missed work time); now as an adult with a job and good work benefits, I did not lose any pay for my sick days.  However, with a job paid by the hour, an hour that you do not work is an hour you are not paid.  If you have to miss some hours at your part-time job, this will hurt you financially.
A close friend broke her leg in university.  Even though all her medical costs were covered (except for the ambulance cost), the cost of the crutches was $25, the plastic cover for the cast had to be purchased in order to bathe (another $25), and she needed a cab to get to classes every day because it was winter (the slippery sidewalks were too dangerous on crutches).
Finally, the time missed from classes will have to be made up in terms of time studying; this can eat up into your work time or your social time.  However, if you are homebound but not feeling too bad, you can study from home.  I was once sick with the flu over a long weekend and while getting better, I decided to avoid my long commute (it was winter too) and avoid other people’s germs.  I stayed home and called the prof of each of my lecture 20 min before the start of the lecture to ask what he was going to cover during class; the professor would tell me, and I would study the same content at the same time in order to stay current.  If I had a break between classes, I would nap.  I did this for an entire week and it really helped me with sleep AND not falling too much behind.
Illness and injuries may be treated for free in Canada, but there is a time and financial cost to having health problems.  Of course many health problems occur with no fault of our own; however, some can be prevented: eat healthy; exercise; get enough sleep – these habits will give your body the immunity it needs to fight viruses and bacteria.  Exercise well, not carelessly, and wear your protective gear, to avoid preventable injuries.  Of course, these precautions will not guarantee perfect health, but at least it will promote it.
I wish you a semester of healthy studying!

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