How I learned the Hard Way that I had a Pre-Existing Condition

My name is Bill Swan. I am a child of Nova Scotian Medicare. When I was born, hospital care was already covered by the province and, soon after I was diagnosed with severe asthma, doctor’s visits became covered too.

My asthma was severe enough that I slept in a mist tent every night, I came very close to needing home oxygen. I was rushed to the ER innumerable times. Spent countless days and weeks in the hospital. My condition was so severe that my parents considered moving to Arizona for its better climate. But, my father was in the navy. 

But being in the navy, prescription drugs had some level of coverage so - to me - all that I needed for my asthma was provided.

By my mid to late teens, for the most-part and most of the time my asthma had stabilized. It was still severe, but with my meds, I maintained. Eventually, I went to university and graduated with distinction.

After my graduation, when my university drug plan was about to expire, I thought I had better nip downtown to arrange coverage for my meds. My necessary meds. My life-altering meds.

I sauntered into the Blue Cross-Blue Shield office. Sidled up to the counter and said that I was there to get me some drug coverage. I was prepared. I was a mature adult. I was ready. Let’s get on with it!

They asked for my name. Dutifully given. Personal details. Dutifully given. Preexisting conditions. Dutifully given.

Response: Sorry but we cannot provide coverage to you for your pre-existing condition.

Stunned, I left the building, went home perplexed and spent most of the evening mulling over what had just happened.

No-word-of-a-lie, I woke the next morning convinced I must’ve asked for coverage “wrong.” It made no sense that they would deny me access to therapy. I'd always had coverage. My whole life. They kept me stable. Kept me human. Kept me alive. This was - madness. 

So I marched right back down and tried again. This went - as you can imagine - not so well.

Standing on the sidewalk outside of the Blue Cross-Blue Shield I pondered my lack-of-options. I could not longer keep my university coverage. I couldn’t get back on my father's plan due to my age. I could not even BUY coverage. I now HAD to pay FULL price for any and all of my medication. But I was recently graduated, unemployed, uninsured and soon - without medication - unstable.

The meds started running out and by summer i was visiting the ER every few weeks throughout July and August.

In the end, I re-enrolled in university that fall with a thesis topic drawn from this real life experience. And learned a sad truth about Canada. Our health care system is woefully inadequate for the sick.

So, I am fed up.

That was thirty years ago!

And nothing - barring the shocking increases in drug costs - has changed. Three-and-a-half million Canadians have inadequate or no health coverage. People with pre-existing conditions are routinely denied access to the very therapy they need`to simply lead as normal life as possible.

That begs the question. Shouldn't more Canadians be fed up?

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