Not white privilege, but marital privilege or,
Last time I talked about privilege it was as a social phenomenon, the unwarranted credit I expect to get for being a hands-on (in a good sense) father. But there are other kinds of privilege (such as my white skin), and also economic privilege — of which I have not had much in my life, but some of which I am enjoying now, though to through little effort of my own.
Raven has found a position in the federal civil service, and as her (ahem) husband, I am reaping the benefits. Not just because she makes nearly twice my salary, but because — especially because! — I get to share in her "benefits" — those sometimes vital supplements to Canada's far-from perfect public health system.
In 2017 and 2018, I spent literally 10 percent of annual income on my health. Mostly dental work, but also drugs (medically necessary drugs, you cynical bastards!). This year, towards the end of July, Raven's benefits kicked in and suddenly I was paying for only 20% of my medication costs, and getting similarly discounted dental care. (Pity the dental bills were so much smaller this year! Well, not really, but you know what I mean.)
Anyway, the kicker came back in early January, when I had my biannual visit to my arthritis doctor. If you've forgotten, I am blessed with a case of psoriasis, for which I've been getting treated for the past 20 years or more. (By god but time flies. But I digress.)
At least, my symptoms have been getting treatment. Various ointments for the scaly skin over the years, with an increasing dosage of pain-killers (acetaminophen in recent years) to deal with something I didn't even know was a thing until five or six years ago: psoriatic arthritis! It seems that psoriasis is an auto-immune disorder that doesn't just attack one's skin, but can also go after one's joints (not to mention eyes, which thank god has not been a problem for me yet!).
Anyway, my doctor has been asking me at each visit whether I had private medical insurance. And for the first time, I was able to answer the question with an optimistic "Yes."
And so he introduced me to something called Otezla, a medication that costs thirteen thousand dollars a year. Yes, $13,000.00 per year, not $1,300.00.
You can imagine how my initial excitement at the prospect of a more effective medication quickly soured, when I calculated 20% of $13,000. Two thousand six hundred dollars per year would require some serious thinking, especially since there's a baby on the way.
But wait! quoth my doctor. What's your annual household income? I guessed it at around $85K and he said, "I'm pretty sure you'll qualify for a subsidy. Why don't I give your information to the company? They should call you within a couple of days."
Naturally, I said yes, and so it came to pass. A very friendly woman called me no more than three or four business days later, asked me a handful of questions, then told me that, yes, I qualified. They would send me a month's supply by courier, Raven's insurance paying for 80%, the drug company covering the rest. Young Geoffrey? Nada, nothing, zip, zilch.
And so far, now about three months into the experiment, it seems to be helping. A lot. My skin looks considerably better and my pains are so greatly reduced that I think I've taken only one pain-killer in the past ten days.
All of which is great for me, of course, but it sure as hell begs some questions.
- Such as: Just what kind of profit margin does the drug company make on this medication? Presumably it's still making a profit on my prescription, despite the subsidy.
- Such as: And how much (if any) public money went into the research and development of this drug?
- And such as: Why are so many Canadians denied dental care, eye care and life-changing and -saving drugs in a wealthy nation that likes to brag about its "universal" public medical care?
- And (lest we we forget): How is it possible that a country as poor as Cuba keeps its citizens at least as healthy as Canada's?
Of course, I am happy as hell with my privileged position here, but it only makes the fundamental injustice all the more clear.
I can't help but be reminded that an empoverished country like Cuba has a longer life-expectancy than the United States, and one comparable to Canada's. When comes the damned revolution, anyway?
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