COLUMN: A new view of health care

Cataract surgery upgrades shed light on two-tiered system.

I’m writing to shed some light – and perhaps, a “tier” or two – on a subject that I’ve been examining a little too closely.

But if reading yet another diatribe on our dysfunctional health care system is enough to make your eyes glaze over, know you’re not alone.

In fact, mine have done so, quite literally, over the past few months, with cataracts forming at a surprising rate of speed.

My concern with our health-care system, in this case, is certainly not one of swiftness.

Diagnosed at the beginning of December – but likely developing slowly in the months to years previous – I’ve gone from slightly fuzzy vision to looking-through-wax in what feels like the blink of an eye.

Between my optometrist, my new opthamologist and their dedicated staff, I’ve rolled through the system at the comparative speed of light. Through cancellations and flexible scheduling, I’m set to go under the knife tomorrow for the first of two surgeries.

No, my complaint with our handy, dandy one-size-fits-all health care is not velocity, but that the near-universal system that many claim it to be is far from accurate.

You know the line: regardless of employment, standing or ability to pay, all patients are equal. Well, just like Orwell wrote back in 1945, some are indeed more equal than others.

Rightly or wrongly, we readily accept such inequity with our day-to-day bumps and bruises. Want the basic plaster cast? B.C. Medical Services Plan pays for it with our tax dollars. If you want a lighter, cooler version, you’re asked to pony up a few dollars more.

Hospital rooms are said to be available for all in need, but if you’re looking for a little more comfort and privacy, be prepared to offer up a couple of clams – if not extended health benefits.

Though all start at the same no-cost point, it’s interesting how quickly the tiers add up.

In the case of cataracts, anyone deemed in need will get two shiny new lenses, provided, of course, you’re willing to trade in your old.

Amazing technology means the double-, triple- and quintuple-vision I’ve been experiencing is about to be a thing of the past, provided I can spot the dotted line to sign on.

But wait, before I sign, I’m asked, do I want the newer technology flexible lenses that can be inserted through a much-smaller incision?

Uh…

The smaller opening means that rather than a six-week recovery time, I’ll be up and seeing in just a day or two. Only $350 a lens.

Sounds convincing, even for a penny pincher like me…

Also, you won’t need stitches in your eyeball.

Sold!

I prepare to sign, but as I first ponder how it’s cheaper for the medical system to give me eyeball stitches and six weeks of increased chance for complications, I’m asked a follow-up question.

Do I drive at night?

Sure…

’Cause if I drive at night, I might consider the lenses that cut down on glare – $450 a pop.

Oh.

And am I interested in the multi-focal lenses that eliminate the need for glasses for nine out of 10 users – at $2,500 an eye?

Ay yi yi!

Tough choices all around. Especially for those of us who still hope to find some good things to see in the years ahead.

While I didn’t opt for top-of-the-line, I did choose a stitch-free option and I am curious whether nearly all opt to pay for some sort of upgrade.

Seeing as how the lowest tier seems impractical and potentially expensive, I also wonder if the medical system would be a little better off eliminating it from the roster.

Of course, I’m not seeing things too clearly right now. Check back with me in a few days.

Lance Peverley is the editor of the Peace Arch News, a sister paper to The Leader.

lpeverley@peacearchnews.com

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