Bumbling Bureaucracy

I got a letter from the government. They wanted me to get a new health card. I ignored it.

Ontario has been “upgrading” the cards citizens use to access our healthcare system. When I first moved to the province the cards were paper. Sometime in the 1970s they switched to plastic cards, red and white ones. Then in 1995 another switch to photo cards, which are only valid for five years. In other words, the government decided to inconvenience me by making me go to a crowded office and wait in line to have my card renewed. In 1995 there was only one office in Ottawa where that could be done, and the wait was always long. I decided to keep my old card, which didn’t have a picture and didn’t expire.

Old Health Card

Mine was in nowhere near as good condition as this one – I only had he strip of white in the middle left.

The new card was introduced for improved security, to prevent fraud. I can see that in an emergency room situation, but I’ve had the same doctor since 1984. He knows who I am without a card.

I’ve actually needed a new card for some time; after 40 years my old card was no longer whole, only the middle part with my name and number remained. It never seemed to be a problem when I needed medical care, so I figured I could wait.

When the notice came, I ignored it. Lining up wasn’t convenient. When the second notice came. I realized they weren’t going to give up, and I wouldn’t put it past the present government to send someone to my house to drag me to a Service Ontario location to force me to apply for the card.

So I went and lined up. It was a relatively painless process. Now you can get the card at any government office. Except you can’t. I no longer have a health card. I have to wait four to six weeks for the new photo ID to be delivered, and they took my old one.

With the technology available today I am sure there is no valid reason why they can’t issue the new card on the spot, except that would be an efficient way of doing things. It would save the province money on postage charges too. Not that saving money seems to be a concern for a provincial government facing a record deficit.

Before they took my picture for the new card I had to produce three pieces of identification. That I had a notice from them addressed to me at the address on my driver’s licence should have been sufficient. They wanted more. Strangely a credit card is considered valid for identification purposes. To me that seems stupid. My friend Scott’s credit card says “Scott” on it, but that isn’t his legal name. How is the card good for identification? In the 1990s I had a cat who had his own credit card! If I had known, I should have gotten a health card for him too, saved on vet bills.

The whole process smacked of paternalism to me, the government always thinks it knows what is best. When I asked how someone without three pieces of identification would get a card I was told “If you are over 16 and don’t have three pieces of ID there’s something wrong.”

Well, yes, there is something wrong – it’s attitudes like that that are wrong. If you don’t have a driver’s licence or passport (and many people don’t) I guess they wouldn’t give you a health card either. Interestingly, if I already had a photo health card, it wouldn’t be considered a valid piece of identification. Gotta love bureaucracy.



  1. I made the mistake of taking my passport to Service Ontario. Problem is, I’m called by my middle name, but at that point they could do no less than transcribe what was on the passport. So my health card reads that way, even though none of my other identification is formatted that way. Now, every hospitalization involves being called by the other name, and explaining that Paul is the name I go by.

    I was told a story about a patient they were trying to bring out of anesthetic but he wasn’t responding because it wasn’t his commonly used name. So now, if that’s involved, I need to be extra careful to communicate the name I want used.

    1. My mother has the same problem, she has never used her first name, but that is what is on her health card so that is how the medical system views her.

  2. The gov’t is just no fun to deal with.

    1. That is for sure. At least though we have a health care system, and it is more efficient than the bureaucracy that issues the cards.

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