Where do the uninsured go for care and where do they get their medications from? Are physicians from other countries who are not licensed to practice in Canada providing medical care to uninsured new arrivals, including refugee claimants and others?
We ask these questions after observing uninsured Canadian newcomers at our clinic be unable to afford healthcare in many situations that are life threatening. They are questions that became more concerning after a recent patient with cancer an uninsured newcomer to Canada died. He was refused treatment unless he could pay $ 68,000 for surgery and then chemotherapy. He could not. The patient died without treatment.
Does it happen that others seek care underground? If it happens how pervasive is it? We don’t know; but we hear the rumours. We hear of “basement clinics”. We hear stories of medications being imported from outside Canada, purchased for much less cost from developing countries, and administered for many illnesses, including cancer.
When you are medically uninsured in Canada Chemotherapy can be $50, 000 to $300,000 for a common cancer. It can be 3 times that for some cancers. Who can come up with that kind of money? When you face death, you face desperation.
We know of patients importing medications – including chemotherapy – from developing world nations where they are available and much less expensive.
If I were uninsured in Canada, and unable to find and afford medical care for a dangerous life threatening cancer, I wonder what I would do? I think I know the answer.
Why do we put our newcomers at risk like this, force them into this position?