If you live in poverty it affects your health according to a recently released study by the CMA (Canadian Medical Association). “Poverty kills,” said Dr. Anna Reid, the CMA president.
You bet it does and even just living a tiny bit above the poverty level can be hazardous to your health. Add that to my post from last week as I can count up to eight areas where I have health problems and some have a) b) and c) parts. Not having enough money to live on means not being able to afford to do all the things that make and keep you healthy.
Healthy food is necessary (and enough of it each day is important, but so is decent shelter). I mean how healthy is living in a rat or roach-infested apartment? Or a shelter?
Then there are the health “extras” – those necessities not covered by government health plans. Those of you who live in the United States think we here in Canada have an ideal health plan. No. Each province has its own health plan and you are supposed to be able to use your province’s plan if you get sick when travelling in another province. But more disturbing is what provinces are taking off the plate as basic coverage. For example, in Ontario, eye checkups (with some exceptions) and physio-therapy are among the deleted list (although there are some changes with partial coverage being added to the latter August 1, 2013). Other health therapies are partially covered – like podiatrists (but not the devices needed). Some were never covered and should be – like basic dental. That means getting private health insurance, something not palpable for those of us living below or near the poverty level, just for some basics. Most cosmetic surgery isn’t covered and unless it’s reconstructive after an accident or injury, that is as it should be. If you want a nose job, etc., to make you look better you should have to pay.
We seem to be taking backward steps closer to before Ontario had health coverage. I wonder how my parents managed – I believe hospital stays in wards were covered or I hope so when first my dad, and then after he died, my mom had their times in hospitals. Before Ontario health coverage any coverage might have been covered by Dad’s employer.
In Ontario the other bad thing that returned is partial payment of OHIP coverage. When OHIP (which had a slightly different name then) came into existence, payment was required – often an employer paid part or all. Well, the recently retired premier, Dalton McGuilty (as my friend calls him – it’s McGinty), added in a health premium into your income tax payments. So once a year when you pay taxes you have to include an amount for health care premium if your taxable income is $20,000 or above. That’s taxable income, not total income before taxes, so we who live in poverty or just above poverty, don’t pay it. But we get hit somewhere else in the tax filing. Unless you have paid large amounts for extra health care (alternative medicine and supplements not included) you can’t use it as a tax deduction because of the convoluted figuring. So if it’s the year I pay a fortune for new glasses, it will count, but if it’s a year where I just get my eyes tested and don’t need new glasses, it’s no deduction.
And that’s what I have to do with all the extra health stuff I should be doing/using. Choose. I can’t afford them all, so I choose looking after my eyes and taking vitamins and minerals and other supplements. My poor feet get over-the-counter medication; my teeth get brushed and that’s about it, except for a few steps I can take – eat healthy (at least I can afford that, partly thanks to my garden and paying close attention to the weekly grocery flyers/sales), the actual gardening and walking.
I’m working on getting enough sleep but all that stress and anxiety from not enough money coming in is keeping me awake some nights and affecting some of my physical ailments, which in turn keep me awake some nights.
The CMA has some advice for governments, including starting a Canada-wide program of a guaranteed annual income and say governments need to be pushed to take action. Amen to that.
You can read an article about this CMA study, generated from town hall meetings of Canadian citizens across Canada. Article is at http://www.timescolonist.com/life/health/canadians-see-income-housing-education-as-determinants-of-good-health-report-1.564578
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes