The Personal Costs of Medical Services
The Hall Commission discovered that 10.7 million Canadians had some form of medical care insurance in 1961, but that 7.5 million had no coverage at all. Thus, only 42.6 per cent of doctors’ bills were paid through insurance. The impact of this is evident in reminiscences such as the following:
Don and I were married in June 1960 and decided to live in an apartment while saving for a house. When he became ill in October and had to have 24 hour nursing care I was earning $45 a week and had to leave envelopes containing $15 three times a day for the private duty nurses. Don came home Christmas Eve and was off work for one year. Thanks to relatives, friends, my church and family, we came through that year. But we were very broke. Our dreams and hopes were smashed. (Helen Heeney, comp., Life Before Medicare: Canadian Experiences [Toronto: Ontario Coalition of Senior Citizens’ Organizations, 1995], p. 73)
Situations like this prompted letters to the editor of the Globe and Mail. In November 1962, Stan Bullock wrote to criticize Dr. Patrick Bruce-Lockhart of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) for his demand that the Ontario government fund the 8–10 per cent of the population without private insurance coverage. Bullock, in suggesting that universal was essential to end dependence on means test, pointed out that Dr. Bruce-Lockhard does not indicate “how many families live in dread of illness, because medical bills could drive them to the edge of poverty” and ended his letter with the statement that “the crying need of the day is to get medicare out of the marketplace and into the area of human need.”
These poignant letters, written by a patient (1959) and his widow (1961) to the renowned heart surgeon Dr. Arthur Vineberg in Montréal, confirm what the Hall Commission uncovered in 1961: seven million Canadians had no medical coverage.
Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University, P 126, Arthur Vineberg Fonds
Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010