To the Editor:

I have a nephew living and working in Pennsylvania. He is sixty years old and has health insurance through his employer. He has a quandary. He is not in the best of health, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol that are all more or less controlled with medication and he is overweight. He would like to take early retirement but due to the very expensive health insurance premiums he unfortunately cannot. When he reaches the age of 66 he will qualify for medicare and that covers hospital expenses. That is six years away and the premium for health insurance he would have to pay in a private plan is a bit north of $1,200 a month. Twelve hundred dollars a month times 72 months is $86,400.00 and he is not even sure he could get a private health plan. Hence he has no choice but work until he is 66. But there is more, his wife is two years younger than him and she is covered under his plan. If he could make it to 66 and retire with Medicare benefits his wife would not be covered until she was 66. That leaves two years without coverage. At that point it is highly unlikely she could get health insurance let alone be able to afford it. Currently she has a few health issues of her own and does not work. Hence a big dilemma for this nice couple and their situation is not unique just to them.

So my nephew is caught between a rock and a hard place. He is realistic about his chances of having any kind of quality of life if he makes it to 66 or 68. He would like to do some things now while he is physically able but he has to continue working because of health insurance. He would like to get a part-time job that would allow him some extra time but those jobs do not cover health insurance premiums.

We in Nova Scotia do not have those problems of health insurance premiums. We do pay a hefty amount for our health coverage but it is spread out and more or less hidden in our taxes. Of course we have our drawbacks with excessive wait times, overcrowded ERs and hospital beds, under staffing for mental issues, too few doctors and so on. In those areas we cannot compete with the quality of care my nephew and his wife receive. She needs a hip replacement due to a motor vehicle accident. Her wait time for a new hip is whenever she decides she wants it. It is just a matter of days. My nephew needs an MRI due to a recent fall. His wait time is the next day. The quality of medical care is excellent there and wait times are not an issue. So if you have good health insurance you receive quality care in a timely manner. If you do not have health insurance and you end up in a hospital due to an accident or serious disease you may lose everything. Hospital stays and doctor care is very expensive and I mean very expensive. If you have nothing such as a home or material goods you will still get good treatment but you will be beholding to the medical bills for a long time. If you have assets you will probably lose those if you do not have sufficient funds readily available. Health insurance is a big problem south of the border and I am glad we have our system here even with its problems.

So next time you hear someone complaining about our “terrible” health care system tell them we are lucky to have what we have or go south and get treatment there. But warn them they better bring some pretty big credit cards. Our system has its problems with wait times, overcrowding, insufficient numbers of doctors but we do get quality care when we get it. I think the politicians will eventually allow the doctors and health care workers to figure out how to make our system work better.

Ken Burrows Sr.