Bill S.

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"If a system excludes just a single sick person for profit, that system is wrong."

I was born and raised (except for 15 years of exile in Kingston, Ontario) in Nova Scotia. I’m almost 54 and have had severe asthma my entire life. My lungs suffered enough damage as a child that I now have COPD as well – without ever being a smoker.

Despite only having about 60% lung function, I continue to work hard – as I must – to maintain what remains of my respiratory health. I run (slowly now) and try to eat healthily (except for a certain cinnamon roll I know).

30 years ago, I graduated from St. Mary’s University in Halifax to a stagnant economy. I was denied private drug insurance due to my pre-existing condition – asthma. Without steady employment, I had no choice but stop my expensive controller medications. I went from full control to several ER visits over the ensuing summer. Throughout this, one overarching thought struck me: it MUST be better – in so many ways – to ensure access to drugs in the first place rather than creating a relentlessly unstable chronically ill population. I felt that the system was set up for failure. It seems to me that if a system excludes just a single sick person for profit, that system is wrong. That became my thesis topic upon my return to university that fall (and to drug coverage).

After completing my Masters, I worked in an unconventional profession and did not have easy access to supplementary health insurance. Luckily, I was able to join a plan through my professional association, but as a small group it is neither cheap nor comprehensive. I pay over $4000 a year for my family and still have a 20% co-pay on drugs. Without including my family costs, in 2015 I personally spent over $3000 out-of-pocket for my medications.

And then last year I gave up my 20-year career for my health – both lung and mental.

Now, I wait.

While I still maintain my membership in my professional association to keep my health plan, I am not sure if this is permissible. I’m afraid to look and I sure as heck don’t intend to ask. Although I am on a “mid-career” break, and am working on several projects at once, my income is zero. We rely on my wife’s sole income to slow our descent into debt.

Hopefully, I will get an income flow soon to reverse the trend or before I get excluded from my current plan.

But, this may be the year.