Image from: Stories of the Uninsured
Killing Me Softly with OHIP
My summer afternoon at Service Ontario
Or: What is a blog for if not to speak one's mind?
Apropos of the story of my day, there was a one-minute power outage due to a thunder clap after I had written several paragraphs of this screed. Lesson learned - save your work every two seconds.
I have also finally learned my lesson about Service Ontario, a misnomer if ever I heard one.
I've just come back from two very long bus rides to and from their offices, and I'll tell you what transpired there, but first: an earlier interaction with Service Ontario happened a couple of years ago when I had written to OHIP to let them know my address change. I had the envelope on me, in case I came upon a mailbox, when I found myself with a friend in a mall on the outskirts of town that contained a Service Ontario office. I proffered the envelope to the receptionist who refused to receive it saying that I needed to take a number and that the wait time was currently one hour.
My mouth hung open until my friend ordered coffees for us in a shop down the corridor and I had to close it enough to take a sip.
Having put all that behind me, and now having to renew my OHIP card, I chose to go to the Service Ontario office on the opposite side of town. I had no idea where it was, so the bus driver, who was going off duty anyway, made an unscheduled stop for me and pointed out the hallowed edifice. I could have kissed him.
Lately I feel so grateful for small kindnesses and, out of necessity, have learned to tolerate a growing lack of concern for the niceties. Most people can't see you or hear you because they are looking at a phone and their ears are stopped up with what I believe are called "buds" -- or else they are representatives of the government.
At Service Ontario I waited in a slow lineup to get permission to take a number and wait some more, which by the look of the crowd was going to be quite a while. I can do this, I said to myself.
But when my turn came to justify my presence in that holy of holies, I was again turned away; this time for not having acceptable documentation to prove that I am not an illegal alien or just trying to pull some sort of "fast one" to get a government freebie.
My OHIP card, which I use only in case I need a checkup to get my reading glasses updated, is going to expire next month (ironic that it expires on one's birthday -- happy birthday, eh?)
I knew I needed proof of address, so I had brought with me a recently signed Notice of Rent Increase from my landlord, plus the renewal form that was mailed to my current address by the provincial government. I also had my Passport as proof of identity and citizenship, my current OHIP photo card, and a credit card with my name on it.
Not good enough. They wanted my original apartment lease - signed over 2 years ago during which time I could have moved - or else the assessment letter I received after filing my income tax - dated over six months ago during which time I could have moved. I was sure they wouldn't want outdated proof, so I left them at home.
Couldn't show them a credit card bill or a bank statement because that's done online and they won't take a printout. My tenant insurance is also now "paperless" and done either online or by email.
How about my utility bill, they asked? Also done online. And that's a whole nother story!
Okay, I'll bore you with it:
My rent does not include heat or electricity -- but I have paid nothing - nada - for heat and electricity in my small apartment for some months now. I had applied for OESP (Ontario Electricity Support Plan) due to being a senior citizen with a reduced income, and expected it to pay a portion of my utility costs -- not to continually overpay the whole bill. My utility account now contains -- get this -- a credit balance of going on $400.00, and I can't help wondering who it is that collects the interest on this waste of tax payer dollars! Before the recent provincial election I inquired of my local Liberal MPP about this, and they promised to get back to me, but failed to win the election so slid off the hook. Since then I have twice emailed the new NDP MPP - on the 10th of July and the 3rd of August - and have not even been favoured by an acknowledgement of receipt of my query. Too busy learning how to actually be an MPP? Perhaps most OESP recipients would turn a blind eye to this windfall (for whom?), but I have this annoying problem with conscience and doing what seems right.
Back to my OHIP saga. They asked for my driver's licence. Seriously, does anybody really want me driving a car at the age of 78? Even I knew that I should stop when I saw that my reflexes were not what they should be. I really am not keen on taking a chance of maiming or killing someone.
I was, however, assured at my last eye exam that my vision is acceptable for driving and that was good for a chuckle.
So, to make a long story longer: I couldn't satisfy the needs of Service Ontario, and they wouldn't assign me the number that would have enabled me to wait for an additional undetermined time. Clearly, I did not deserve to have an OHIP card.
When I'm 80, apparently I can do the renewal by mail. Wow, I can't wait. Seriously, that's too long a wait to take a chance on my still being alive on the magic day. One gets used to knowing that one is living on borrowed time and it's deliciously scary.
I'm not always dignified when unfairly thwarted, but this time I made a point of speaking quietly before vacating the hallowed offices of "Service" Ontario. "I have not seen a doctor in over 20 years", I said, "and have saved the province a pile of money. I only wanted the OHIP card in case I need an eye exam, but I suppose I can do without that as well."
The woman who had been summoned to verify the clerk's assessment of my credentials just walked away, and the clerk whispered, "Sorry". The whole room full of people stared at me in dazed confusion as I headed for the door instead of taking up a wait position.
I had no idea when the next bus would arrive, and it was stinking hot outside, and I shouldn't be in the sun anyway because I have no skin pigment to absorb the UV rays, so it was a godsend that, as I was crossing the road, the bus I needed stopped at the red light. The driver let me on and I came dangerously close to kissing him, but only said that I wanted to, and he laughed.
I'm going to see if there's a place that will accept cash for an eye exam. If successful, then all I have to do is hope, should I suffer a stroke, that I kick-off immediately so they don't kill me at the hospital by peppering me with all sorts of panic questions about my OHIP card.
Maybe I'll just print this screed out and staple it to my chest.
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