they paid the whole bill

So, I got sick at the ASA this year. It was the worst timing possible. I started feeling sick on the airplane to San Francisco, a flight that carried about 12 sociologists on it, one of whom was seated right behind me across the aisle. I spent the 5-hour flight contemplating barfing in front of a colleague, but fortunately, I stopped short of losing my lunch. It only got worse from there, and though I tried to tough out attending one session and even making it to the bloggers’ party, I was mostly laid up in my hotel room. I found myself facing the Canadians’ worst nightmare: seeking medical care in the United States.

This is so dreadful an option in the Canadian mindset that my own healthcare professional, speaking to me on the phone, advised me that I needed to seek care, “but it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg.” Fortunately, as an American, I am used to paying an arm and a leg for healthcare, so I sallied forth. I got the care I desperately needed, and it was high-quality care at that. I mean, seriously, you should have seen the view of Alcatraz from the waiting room; it was gorgeous.

Brought back to health by the local doctors and advised to get home immediately, I hopped a flight back to Canada, down $1200, but feeling I had made the right choice. Only when I got back home did I look into the travel insurance benefit offered by my employer. I knew we had something like that, but I didn’t know any details. It turns out I was supposed to call ahead to open a claim before I sought healthcare. Learning that, I was not hopeful for reimbursement.

But I called anyway. I spent a bit of time on hold, but nothing like I was used to from health insurance companies. They opened a claim, sent me a form that I filled out and immediately returned, healthcare receipts attached. Imagine my surprise when, two months later, I got a cheque in the mail for $1181.  Depending on the exchange rate at the time of my doctor visit, this probably is around 90% of my bill. With only one phone call and a form filled out.

I don’t know much of Canadian regulation of supplemental health insurance, but something has produced an entirely different approach to health insurance than I have encountered in the United States. The idea that the insurance payouts are an unproblematic obligation that the insurance company just lives up to without question had become so foreign to me that this feels like bonus cash. This is what insurance should be.

7 thoughts on “they paid the whole bill”

  1. I confess that I’m feeling great angst because my daughter goes off her health insurance in a couple of days. I’m going to take advantage of my class position and buy some kind of private policy for her & her husband, but the choice between way-too-expensive COBRA and cheap-but-probably-useless stopgap major medical insurance has my anxiety level cranked way up. It is very hard to sift through the private options.


  2. OW: It is especially hard to sift through the options when there are so many exceptions to coverage, limits on amounts of coverage, and differences in up-front costs. It is very difficult, even for the highly educated, to make comparisons across policies.


  3. But Tina, your punishment is that you have to live in a socialist country and you risk being brainwashed by Hitler-Stalins. J/K, of course, I wish it all worked like that and glad you are feeling better!


  4. Tina, I’m very happy that you had a good healthcare + insurance experience. But I want to know how much my employer is spending on travel insurance and whether I could take that in cash instead.


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