The high price of emergency treatment
If you're visiting Whistler from another province or another country and don't have comprehensive health insurance, you might want to consider getting some, and fast. And if you're completely uninsured, keep your wallet handy — you might need to bite down on it when the doctor gives you the bill.
On top of the doctor's fees, the WHCC charges for both administrative and equipment costs — extras that many types of insurance won't cover.
If you're from another country, the basic fee for a visit to the Whistler Health Care Centre is $195. If it's a minor problem, such as an uncomplicated ear ache, the WHCC can reduce the fee to $75. These are just the walk-in fees. If you're carried in by stretcher, they get a little heftier.
For emergency trauma patients with life- or limb-threatening conditions — such as cardiac or respiratory arrest, shock or multi-trauma — the fee is $500. If your condition is urgent — obvious fractures, head injuries, allergic reactions — then your fees will drop to $250.
Last year, more than 30 per cent of the emergency cases treated at the WHCC were orthopaedic; i.e. broken bones, torn ligaments, damaged cartilage. Not only will these injuries lay you up, but casts, braces and crutches associated with treatment aren't covered by any provincial health care plan.
Basic crutches are $65 with a $25 refund. European crutches are $70 with a $35 refund. Cervical collars are $20. Knee immobilizers are $65. Arm immobilizers are $25.
Casts can cost from $20 or $45 with a Gore-Tex liner, for a short arm fibreglass cast. An adult long leg cast with a Gore-Tex liner tips the scales at $145.
And then there's the ambulance ride — some 415 visitors to the WHCC shelled out for the trip to the Squamish General Hospital or Lions Gate Hospital last year. Ambulance fees aren't covered by the British Columbia Medical Services Plan.
B.C. residents with valid health insurance pay $54 for the first 40 km, and $0.50 for every km after, up to a maximum of $274.
Non-B.C. residents pay $396 per trip, as do Worker's Compensation Board and work-related cases. If you get hurt at work, your employer is responsible for paying this fee.
If you're accompanied on your journey by a nurse, that's an extra $300.
If someone calls you an ambulance but you change your mind, you still owe a $50 fee for service refused.
Read the small print on your insurance agreement to determine what you're entitled to claim. You may need to upgrade. It could prevent any unpleasant surprises this winter.