Why Canadians shouldn’t get their health care from the South Side of Chicago

For those of you unfortunate enough to be blessed with good health while travelling in the United States, you’ve been missing one of the most fascinating aspects of American culture. Luckily I’ve been plagued with a host of infirmities/ diseases/ infections over the last two months that have allowed me to explore the inner workings of the American health care system for you. Sparing the most gruesome of details, I had my wisdom teeth removed over two months ago (in Berlin), which led to a sinus infection, which led to a chest infection, which has now led to an inflammation of my lymph nodes, which has led to endless whining about my health problems, whimper, moan, whinge, lament, cough cough, sniffle.

Price list: Jacksonville Baptist Clinic

Feeling more pathetic than usual since my arrival in Chicago days ago, I got permission form my Canadian travel health insurance to visit an urgent care doctor in the city. They even provided the address of a clinic on the south side of Chicago, near my friend Amanda’s home where I was staying. Unlike other doctors, this clinic would accept my Canadian insurance and I wouldn’t even have to worry about paying out of pocket.

Thrilled to be seeing a doctor, Amanda and I jumped in her car, ready to drive over. When I told Amanda (Chicago, born and bred) the address of the clinic, less than 10 blocks away, she looked somewhat dubious. Hoping not to crush my sick little heart’s hopes of seeing a doctor, she put the clinic’s address into the GPS. Then, blatantly disregarding my sick little heart (and lungs), Amanda refused to take me into that neighborhood. I sat, quiet except for the occasional snivel or whimper, as she tried desperately to explain why I wouldn’t be going to the clinic:

“It’s not that I don’t want you to see a doctor… it’s just that I don’t want to get car jacked… or shot….I know it will save you two hundred dollars… wait, I’ll just give you two hundred dollars. Can I just give you the two hundred dollars?… I guess I could ask my dad to take us. No wait, he would just say no. No. We could keep the windows rolled up I guess… and park really close. But this is a brand new car and… I don’t want you to think I’m racist… or that there are places I won’t go in my own city… Ya, but, we’re not going there…”

Health clinic gift card, for the one you love

And so we drove 60 blocks to another clinic, with the windows rolled up, past liquor shops, storefront churches, tax centres, checks cashed and finally, Oprah’s studio. Much like visiting a garage, a price list was mounted on the doctor’s wall: $100 for a basic tune-up to $250 for a “complex” procedure. After all that I was diagnosed with a lack of antibiotics in my system an ordered to take some more immediately (hadn’t I just finished a round in Canada for my sinus infection? Best not ask too many questions and start moving into the “complex tune-up” zone). I accepted the prescription gratefully, and sniffled my way home.

Chicago, outside of its medical practices, turned out to be a fascinating city. It made me realise how privileged I am to be a tourist with health insurance just passing through. For most of us, Chicago is a beautiful (and safe) place. Just be careful never to get on the red line El-train heading south.


2 Responses

  1. Ton histoire me rappelle New York dans les années 1960, quand je rendais visite à ma tante, une prof à Colombia U. qui vivait dans un immeuble tout près de Harlem. Le chauffeur de taxi a failli refuser de s’y rendre. Mais je ne savais pas que ce genre de chose existait encore à ce point-là aux US…

    Tu diras ce que tu voudras de notre tendance à nous sentir supérieurs aux USA, mais connnais-tu une ville au Canada où cet incident aurait pu se passer de la même façon? Et j’ai découvert cette année (malheureusement, comme tu dirais) que notre système de santé n’est peut-être pas parfait, mais il est meilleur qu’en Espagne, par exemple. Dans mon expérience, bien entendu.

  2. Vous avez raison Annette. Je ne peux pas penser à une seule ville comme ça au Canada. Par contre, j’essaye de faire attention de ne pas trop dire ou trop conclure de ça…

    J’étais à Chicago avec mon amie Amanda, qui fait un doctorat en études canadiennes. Comme Américaine au Canada elle entends souvent des histoires de “the USA is so racist because once my friend … in Texas.” Amanda dit toujours “qu’une anecdote ce n’est pas des données.”

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