Those of you following on Twitter may have seen my tweets the last few days regarding medical ID. And 140 characters is not a lot of space for me to effectively communicate my thoughts on the whole price-gouging thing MedicAlert Canada seems to be doing.

I became a MedicAlert member in August 2011, and have six months left on my prepaid membership. When I signed up, I chose the Advantage membership at $49/year, plus the cost of ID. I have two sportbands and a stainless steel ID, and I love them. I love the security of the MedicAlert service, especially in that I am active, travel, and often, nobody was home if the number on my generic ID was called (more details of why I chose to join MedicAlert are in the above-linked post).  A few months ago, MedicAlert Canada announced the increase in their membership fees from $39 for a Standard membership or $49 for an Advantage membership, to a $5/month membership to link all members up with Advantage–a total of $60 a year for the exact same service.

The price gouge was done to upgrade all members to Advantage, but now those who were happy paying for standard are paying $20 more per year. I chose the Advantage membership because of the craziness that is my summer with my emergency contacts being all over the place, but this is just ridiculous.

And further, it comes down to principle:

This is the exact same service that is received in the US for $45/year–including that MedicAlert Canada and MedicAlert US utilize the same medical database. In addition, many of the IDs in the MedicAlert Canada catalogue are the same as those in the MedicAlert US catalogue, but at extremely increased prices.

How is this fair?

Black MedicAlert Dog Tag: $7.45 USD . . . $39.40 CAD

Purple Flower Sportband: $22.95 USD . . . $40.00 CAD [AND with the US service, you receive a free sportband when you purchase one]

These are for the cheaper IDs. As the IDs get more expensive, there are few same-products to compare, but the watches are still $10 more each for the Canadian versions [that I assume are no different].

MedicAlert is a non-profit, charitable organization. I do not have huge knowledge into the World of Non-Profit. I know MedicAlert provides membership assistance [that I likely do not qualify for, nor would I want to simply because I think their costs are ridiculous, I would never want to take that funding away from someone who simply cannot pay for it] and programs to provide the service to kids for free pending their school is a part of the No Child Without program. This is great, especially for kiddos who have autism and cannot communicate their needs effectively, or kids with medical needs like severe food allergies or type one diabetes and are at higher risk for requiring emergency care while away from their parents. Like I said, I am a huge supporter of the service that is provided, and aside from this, my experience has been positive.

But can I justify that simply because I am Canadian, I have to pay more for the service than my southern neighbours? Can I justify that the service that is supposed to save my life has just jumped their costs and potentially made it more difficult for people who need the service to access it without membership assistance? And can I justify this when I know I can get other awesome medical IDs cheaper than MedicAlert’s and link them to a RoadID profile for $10 per year, thus receiving essentially the same service without the big-name?

I’ll be disappointed to say goodbye to my MedicAlert membership in August and the security it offers. Disappointed to put my small, less-intrusive emblems and cute flower sportband away in a drawer.

Because, simply I cannot justify it.

(Anybody recognize that P.O.D. title?)

Yesterday evening, sitting next to the sixteen-year-old I do respite with at youth, she grabbed my arm and started playing with my purple flowery sportsband.  Didn’t ask about it, just played with it, and asked what time it was [I think she thought it was a watch].  The funny thing is, the last two weeks, none of the kids had asked about my bracelets (I work with like 55 of them).  Until yesterday, that is.

“Miss Kerri, do you have asthma?” [The kids at work call me Miss Kerri.  It’s all cute and such, though it threw me off a lot the first, oh, two months of work.]


“[Insert other kid’s name here] has the same bracelet!  And she has asthma, too!”  [Hooray for being matchy with one of our kids?  She doesn’t wear hers much anymore, I’ve been noticing.]

“Yuppers.  I have a black one too, but it’s too big.”  Kids understand all about things being too big.  Adults kind of lose that sort of understanding.

The other thing adults kinda lose, is the ability to not ask me incessant questions and just take it for what it is.  Your bracelet is matchy to my friend’s bracelet, you both have asthma, I’m gonna go back and play now.  Kids are so easy (most of the time).

Last night, my other respite girlie sits down on my knee and starts playing with my bracelet. “I used to have that one!  Except it had velcro on it.”  [The girlie has asthma, recently diagnosed epilepsy and potentially severe environmental allergies in addition to the behavioural/developmental things that lead me to doing respite with her].


And my question is . . . why are these kids not wearing their bracelets?  I understand MedicAlert is a little pricey for some, but there are other options.  It’s something I definitely think is important, and people don’t understand how important it actually is..

It’s your life.  Do you wear medical identification to identify your invisible illness?  Why did you make that decision, or why not?

I talk a lot.  It’s one of my better qualities for working at a daycare.  But with everything I do–having an active job, running around at work and in class, going to school where very few people know me, working out, and everything else that comes with just living your life, not everybody knows your life story.  And i’ve taken CPR enough times and know enough EMTs to know that in an emergency, knowing your story can make a huge difference.

Especially when you can’t talk.

For that reason, I’ve worn a medical ID bracelet of sorts since my asthma moved beyond two inhalers.  Simply, it stated my name, asthma, organ donor and an emergency contact phone number.  Which in reality is all that is necessary in an emergency anyway.  I haven’t ever gotten to that point yet, and I very much hope and pray I never do.  But asthma is a strange disease, and you just never know.

Here’s where the dumb part came in.  All too frequently when I’m out, nobody is at the contact phone number on my bracelet.  And if they were, I have doubts either of my parents would be able to share the names of the medications I’m on–I don’t blame them at all.  Some days I forget.  And sometimes, they’re away from home for a week or two at a time, rendering contacting anybody useless until I’m able to tell people what’s up.  No bueno if I happen to get sick.  So after pondering this realization for two out of four weeks in July as I ran amok at work with my parents out at Lake No Man’s Land with barely any phone service, I realized the too-frequent semi-uselessness of my ID bracelet.

In August, I made the move to MedicAlert.  My bracelets give the hotline phone number, my member number and read ASTHMA, ORGAN DONOR.  My file advises medical personnel of my medications and my retinopathy.  If anything happens, MedicAlert will notify my family, and I can update the contact numbers on my file as-necessary.  Whether I’m around home, or around the world, regardless of whether where I am speaks English or not, MedicAlert covers the details in translation, I’m protected.  Probably over-protected.  It’s like why people buy insurance, they hope to never, ever need it, but they have it just in case.

I got my first plain ol’ “designer” stainless steel bracelet a couple weeks ago, right before I went to Chicago — perfect timing.

stainless medicalert

Yesterday, my sport bands [or sportybands as Natasha and I have been calling them!] came.  The other is just plain black.


So, maybe I’m over protected, but at least whatever and whereer life takes me . . . I’m ready.