Snowbird reminds NLers to appreciate health care system

Bill
Bill Westcott
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I am one of the thousands of Newfoundland snowbirds in Florida for the winter.

letter to editor

A recent car accident involving a Canadian showed me the value of our MCP and our health care system. I hope when gripers — and there are many — read this they will step back and appreciate what we got. 

If you come down south, be sure you have adequate insurance; lots of it. Hospitals here and everywhere in the United States, it seems, are for-profit hospitals, meaning the buck comes first. Huge bucks! 

The victim in this case, a lady (registered nurse for 50 years) from Hudson needed emergency trauma service following a collision in mid-March. It appears the suspect for her upper body injury was the airbag.

She spent a frustrating five-hour stay at the hospital and released after being stabilized. The bill came to a staggering $44,900 for the trauma unit and two checkups she received by a physician's assistant.

Shoddy treatment

She spent most of the five hours waiting for blood work, ECG and CAT scan with dye. Her blood pressure and pulse were taken only twice, on arrival and on departure.

The lady told a local Florida newspaper her name was misspelled at the outset and not corrected, and a proper wristband wasn't put on for two hours, she wrote.

"I never saw a doctor, and a physician's assistant only made a brief examination before ordering the tests," she wrote.

Just sent away

She was finally released with "some aftercare papers including those for her insurance provider and was left to find her own way out,” she said.

To add insult to injury, no one spoke to her husband. She said the emotional trauma of the money grab is more upsetting than the car accident.

Her wish is to let people, especially her friends in Canada and the United Kingdom, know about Florida's trauma response fees ($49,000 for five hours’ work is pretty good pay, one would agree).

So, let's all realize how fortunate we are to have our health care system in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Admittedly, our taxes are much higher than in the U.S.A. but the Floridians would give their right arm to have what we have — a free-for-all system that is fair and equitable no matter what status one has.

Ours are taxes well worth collecting (every cent), I feel, especially when they're spent to guard our health and provide a sense of security. Thanks to MCP workers and our health care providers.

— Bill Westcott is a resident of Clarke’s Beach who spends his winters in Florida.

Geographic location: United States, Florida, Canada United Kingdom Newfoundland and Labrador Clarke

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Recent comments

  • Bill Westcott
    April 09, 2014 - 11:24

    Gord Who asked our health care system to bail us out when we are in Florida, or for that matter, anywhere else in the U.S.A. My point in my letter is to warn Nfldrs coming this way to be prepared. Even if they are not, our Govt. will not or won't be asked to quote you "bail us out". I agree with your premise but I think you got the focus of the piece off the rails Gord.

    • gord
      April 09, 2014 - 22:21

      Sorry Bill, read it wrong. Enjoy your trip Bill. Trust the temps are nice!

  • Ed Dwyer
    April 07, 2014 - 19:41

    Thank you Mr Bill Westcott for this information, I am going to year your letter in the at our next Unifor Local 222 retirees (membership 13000) meeting. like you say sir we are fortunate to have a health care system that is fair to everyone, Ed Dwyer, member, supporter Canadian & Ontario Health Coalition. Formely from Fogo.

  • gord
    April 05, 2014 - 22:47

    I will stay in Canada thanks and deal with the healthcare at home. You that choose to venture outside will just have to suck it up and live with your choices but don't ask our taxes to bail you.

    • D Williams
      April 16, 2014 - 14:32

      I was reading your paper to prepare for an offroading trip to Labrador this Summer. As a New Hampshire resident, I would be far worse off in Canada. I make about $100K/yr. I keep about $84K after taxes. An excellent family health plan cost about $16K/yr. How much does someone that earns $100K/yr keep in Newfoundland?

    • R. williams
      April 17, 2014 - 07:30

      About the same.

  • Get Real
    April 04, 2014 - 19:57

    Sounds like "sour grapes". It is so very true that the costs are very expensive in the States but this story reaks of untruth. The high costs allow for instant treatment (if you are insured) with MRI's and Cat Scans available all the time. The cost - I agree crazy - but the description given third hand is just a bunch of BS. Ther is also another option - Stay Home!

  • Cashin Delaney
    April 01, 2014 - 22:55

    Combined with the fact that pension funds are underperforming because of low rates, and underfunded due to retirees living so long today, we realize that the old have parasited themselves onto the young with a theocracy of malthusian economics and false scarcity. Low interest rates and longevity would seem to be good? Why does it not produce a boon, but only a boom, as the board of trade loves to crow about? People have no protection in Canada (despite the Heath Canada Act 1984 - April Fool!) to maintain service for free, and no protection in the USA to maintain humane billing in a more laisse-faire system. Government meddling in peoples healthcare today costs us all as North Americans. Returning to the false scarcity. The economy is stagnant because of the hoarding of money by the scared, who know they can't afford to retire on pension alone! Hoarded money by the old, who are insecure (because of economists voodoo, not true scarcity) is stagnant money, earning nothing but lowest of interest. A stagnant economy is bad for retirees - their hoarded money can't buy as much, from the fewer choices there are left. MCP has it's abuse, and Obama's system is not perfect. No system can help greedy, fearful people enjoy the normal healthcare practices that grow within healthy economies. I suggest we can't see the forest for the trees. We can't see the economy in action, for the stacks of Benjamins. "a free-for-all system that is fair and equitable no matter what status one has." seems like a good idea, as does all lovely legislation written with angels in mind, and not human beings.

  • Mr. Pen
    April 01, 2014 - 14:54

    So, did Newfoundland MCP pay all the $49,000?

  • Bill Westcott
    April 01, 2014 - 14:05

    To Jeff: My learned Newfoundlander. You missed my point. It was not so much the amount the lady spent buying her private insurance- the intent of my letter was to point out the big profits hospitals like that one in the U.S.A. rake out of the system. THAT is why our insurance is so high Jeff and THAT is why the insurance company wants to get us the hell out of here if we can walk and breathe rather than be conned. A friend from Newfoundland a few years ago was sent out in a medavac private plane out of Tampa.. just think how much that cost. The Insurance Co. realized it was cheaper that way. I had reason to be hospatilized for a week about seven years ago. The cost to my insurance- $85,000. So the lady I wrote about is justified in saying $45,000 for five hours semi-professional care was ridiculous. Jeff- take the blindfold off. No matter what way you spin things.. 90% of those of us who know feel the same. YOU are in a small minority I suggest. Anyway as they say in Florida, HAVE A NICE DAY! Respect MCP.

    • david
      April 01, 2014 - 19:34

      If you ever saw the bills, how much would all taxpayers have paid out for the exact SAME slow, impersonal treatment in Canada? You have no clue.......and that's the crux of the issue.

    • Grand Banker
      April 02, 2014 - 07:02

      David, you raise a very good point that Bill has missed completely. For a realistic or true comparison, one would need to know the full cost, treatment results, etc., in Canada. Without this information Bill's letter is of limited or no value .

    • VOR
      April 02, 2014 - 08:33

      What Bill is talking about here is EQUITY and FAIRNESS. What David and Jeff are talking about are selfishness and self-advantage. Of course we need to be concerned about the costs of healthcare, but in the US many people try to make a profit from the misfortune of others. Unfortunately many Harperites are only concerned about maximizing their own money instead of any sense of concern for their community or society.

    • david
      April 03, 2014 - 09:46

      Newsflash, comrade VOR: Selfish is precisely what ALL people are. When you need a bed in a hospital, and there isn't one, I'd love to see how you'll respond.....what with your "concern" for everyone, and your sense of "community good". I'm sure your response won't be that of a self-centred hypocrite at all. Nahhhh.

    • VOR
      April 06, 2014 - 15:02

      David sounds like a devout follower of Sarah Palin, perhaps he should move down to the states so he can join the Tea Party.

  • tim
    April 01, 2014 - 13:39

    Down south for a few months escaping the Canadian winter - my heart bleeds for ya... BTW, Jeff's comment was ban on!

  • Jeff
    April 01, 2014 - 13:06

    Bill Westcott is only presenting half truths here. Sure the bill may have $40k but if the lady has insurance, which by the way, may only cost $100 to $200 a month her maximum out of pocket may have only been 1 or 2 grand. Now, take into consideration that Florida has no state income tax. Think about that for a minute. Imagine if you did not have to pay provincial taxes in Newfoundland. That's a lot of money residents of Florida get to keep in their own pockets. Would you really own a cellphone or have cable and not buy yourself or your family health insurance? Then you would clearly have your priorities all wrong. Not stops to think for a minute that people rationally decide not to be insured. I have lived and worked in the US several times. Paid for my insurance and had hospitals bills for my newborn sons up in the $60 and $70 thousand dollar range. My out of pocket was $2100 both times. And my yearly out of pocket for a family of 5 was $6k. Peanuts to the amount I was savings on taxes and the significantly lower cost of living. And as for the quality of care. There are crappy hospitals, nurses and doctors everywhere, but what I've found is there are a lot more of them on the Canadian side of the border than on the US side.

  • another snowbird
    April 01, 2014 - 12:59

    My question is why would anyone go to another country without the proper health insurance. You have heard the horror stories of the big bad privately owned hospitals.. so why would you board a plane..for 3 or more months without taking the precautions? Lets face it most of us snowbirds are 50 plus so chances of seeing a physician or having a hospital visit is considerably higher!  My opinion is because residents have to buy pricey medical insurance In the US you don't have the average person with a sniffle running to the ER everytime you turn around. Look at our emergency rooms filled with people who have the common cold or just didn't have time in the day to see a family doctor because of an a ache or pain. This do not happen In the US because its too expensive but in canada we run to the ER within a blink of an eye for everything and anything leaving the government footing the bill and then we complain about how high the taxes go during budget time. You have to be at a walk in clinic for an hour and a half earlier to get in? I bet if you took note of the names on the walk in sheets many would be duplicate from week to week.  Its getting out of hand because its "free"! The average wait time at an urgent care room (ER) in the states is 10 minutes in Newfoundland it could be hours before you get to see a doctor.. if you don't leave before you see one ( and if you do leave you shouldn't have been there in the first place).  And be thankful you got your trauma testing I.e CAT scan etc right there, not having to wait months for a call for the procedure.  So in ending this rant I will warn stay out of our ER's for a cough or our we will find ourselves like our neighbors in the US. Do the research and get the proper insurance before heading off to a tropical paradise!  And bill no offense but ive never been walked out the front door and bid a good day from any doctor or nurse from the ER...I would hope they would be back inside attending to other patients!

  • another snowbird
    April 01, 2014 - 11:28

    My question is why would anyone go to another country without the proper health insurance. You have heard the horror stories of the big bad privately owned hospitals.. so why would you board a plane..for 3 or more months without taking the precautions? Lets face it most of us snowbirds are 50 plus so chances of seeing a physician or having a hospital visit is considerably higher! My opinion is because residents have to buy pricey medical insurance In the US you don't have the average person with a sniffle running to the ER everytime you turn around. Look at our emergency rooms filled with people who have the common cold or just didn't have time in the day to see a family doctor because of an a ache or pain. This do not happen In the US because its too expensive but in canada we run to the ER within a blink of an eye for everything and anything leaving the government footing the bill and then we complain about how high the taxes go during budget time. You have to be at a walk in clinic for an hour and a half earlier to get in? I bet if you took note of the names on the walk in sheets many would be duplicate from week to week. Its getting out of hand because its "free"! The average wait time at an urgent care room (ER) in the states is 10 minutes in Newfoundland it could be hours before you get to see a doctor.. if you don't leave before you see one ( and if you do leave you shouldn't have been there in the first place). And be thankful you got your trauma testing I.e CAT scan etc right there, not having to wait months for a call for the procedure. So in ending this rant I will warn stay out of our ER's for a cough or our we will find ourselves like our neighbors in the US. Do the research and get the proper insurance before heading off to a tropical paradise! And Bill I can never remember a doctor or nurse walking me to the front door of any hospital and bidding me a good day..no offense but I would hope they would get back to the patients inside.

  • Joan
    April 01, 2014 - 11:23

    This is so true and yet I know of people who will come to the US without health coverage. This doesn't have to be a seasonal tourist but someone just crossing for a days shopping or to gas up. An accident can happen anytime. I had to visit a local hospital here a couple of years ago. I was attended by an LPN not a doctor, who diagnosed my problem, wrote a prescription and after 3 hours at emergency I was released. All this for a scratched cornea. My insurance company paid the bill and when I returned back to Florida after two months there were several letters threatening to take me to court and collection agencies because of the balance of my bill owing. This is called double billing and all people using the hospitals in the US should be aware of this. Your insurance carrier and the medical facility you attend will settle your bill for an agreed amount then they will bill you for the balance. In my case the balance was around $375.00 which I refused to pay. I called my insurance carrier and they said under no condition to pay it. I sent the letters to them and they dealt with the hospital and I never heard from them after. Make sure you understand your insurance policy and always be truthful with your carrier because if you are not you will be left to pay the full amount as they will cancel your policy and refund the cost of the policy leaving you to pay what could be a very expensive bill. . .sometimes meaning hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • Joan
    April 01, 2014 - 11:19

    This is so true and yet I know of people who will come to the US without health coverage. This doesn't have to be a seasonal tourist but someone just crossing for a days shopping or to gas up. An accident can happen anytime. I had to visit a local hospital here a couple of years ago. I was attended by an LPN not a doctor, who diagnosed my problem, wrote a prescription and after 3 hours at emergency I was released. All this for a scratched cornea. My insurance company paid the bill and when I returned back to Florida after two months there were several letters threatening to take me to court and collection agencies because of the balance of my bill owing. This is called double billing and all people using the hospitals in the US should be aware of this. Your insurance carrier and the medical facility you attend will settle your bill for an agreed amount then they will bill you for the balance. In my case the balance was around $375.00 which I refused to pay. I called my insurance carrier and they said under no condition to pay it. I sent the letters to them and they dealt with the hospital and I never heard from them after. Make sure you understand your insurance policy and always be truthful with your carrier because if you are not you will be left to pay the full amount as they will cancel your policy and refund the cost of the policy leaving you to pay what could be a very expensive bill. . .sometimes meaning hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • david
    April 01, 2014 - 09:32

    It's funny...you can easily scare the bejeepers out of every Newfoundlander with any trumped-up "U.S. travel medical issue" story (oh my gawd...$45,000!? What a bunch of greedy, selfish misers!), but you can't get anyone here to even ease up on their drinking and driving, despite all the gruesome deaths and innocent lives lost. But then, health care here is 'free', thank heavens.

  • Marshall Art
    April 01, 2014 - 09:28

    Hey Bill, excellent article. At least you didn't feel the need to call the three local Open Line Shows and blow your horn, reminding the hosts and listeners, ad nauseam, that you were 'down south' for a few months, playing golf, drinking Pina Coladas and hove off in the pool. For that, we thank you.

  • Marjorie
    April 01, 2014 - 09:16

    Nosy Parker, I said TWO people; not a lot of people. I live in an apartment building and their medications are for sale to anyone in the building who wants to purchase them at a good price; mostly pain killers and anti-depressants. He who protests too much must be on Welfare.

    • Nosy Parker
      April 01, 2014 - 11:51

      "He who protests too much must be on Welfare. " So what's your point? There's nothing wrong with being on welfare. There IS someting wrong spying on your neighbours,passing judgement, and braodcasting your gossip.

  • Kit
    April 01, 2014 - 08:49

    Thank you for this article...so many people do not realize how risky it is to take trips without insurance and oftentimes insurance coverage does not cover every medical situation. It is a dicey situation which is a worry for travellers. We are VERY lucky to live in Canada and especially Nl. It takes an experience like this to be more appreciative. The US may have more sun and sand but the poor medical system and lack of gun control can cause a restless journey!

  • Out of Towner
    April 01, 2014 - 08:24

    Take heed 'snowbirds'.....buy up plenty of health insurance before you go south....you just may need it(read the fine print too)! Over the past year, two friends of mine, who got sick while 'winter' living in Florida, headed home asap. They knew they couldn't afford to be seen by a doc there.

  • Concerned
    April 01, 2014 - 08:21

    I do agree with your comments. I don't live in NL, but I am so grateful for our health care system. But, I am also very concerned about this point: there are MORE than 500,000 Snowbirds that go to the States every winter, from Florida to the West coast. Most stay for 6 months, more than likely spending approximately $1000 per month, so every year the Snowbirds spend more than 3 billion dollars per year in the States. That is a large chunk of money being taken out of the Canadian economy. How can our FREE health care continue with such loss of money in our own country? Where will that leave your children and grand children for the future? I know that you birds and others will flap your wings and say that you can spend your own hard earned money where you chose too. But that's the facts. These are very conservative figures and the information comes from CBC news.

    • eastCoaster709
      April 01, 2014 - 13:46

      Concerned - I don't understand your concern. Most 'snowbirds' are retired or partially retired. Most likely from middle to upperclass that has worked a good majority of their lives contributing as tax payers. I would think they have more than paid their dues. If they can afford to leave the country for 6 months and accept the risk of having to pay for extra insurance or private health care while they are away then let them! They are actually lighting the load on our health care system. The $1000 a month you quote are after-tax dollars - are you suggesting that snowbirds be taxed more? Suggesting penalizing people for traveling outside the country becuase we are taking money out of the economy?

  • Marjorie
    April 01, 2014 - 07:39

    Yes, we certainly do take our Health Care System for granted, and, unfortunately, most comments you see on our health care are negative, complaining ones; as well our system is being abused by some. I know of at least two people on Welfare and when they get their free prescriptions, they sell them!

    • Nosy Parker
      April 01, 2014 - 08:00

      Marjorie, you seem to know a lot of people on welfare and all about their nefarious dealings. It seems you have a lot of time on your hands behind twitching window curtains.