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.

14 thoughts on “the medicalert conundrum – #hawmc day 7

  1. OK…so don’t take this as me saying it’s right…but, I’ve noticed that you pay a whole lot more in Canada for a lot of things. Clothing is more expensive, cars are more expensive, etc. Is the price increase for the physical ITEM (not the service) due to the taxes and tariffs from importing them to Canada from where ever they might originate from?

    I DO believe that they are attempting to rip people off by charging more for the service…they aren’t paying taxes or tariffs or duties on the information…that’s just stupid.

    1. Oh, it’s totally true. The dollar is basically par right now, and even Aeropostale and Hollister are SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper in the US. It is so ridiculous. I love Canada, but honestly, it is so stupid sometimes!

  2. First let me apologize for all the times I looked at the prize of a book/toy/whatever that listed both US and Canadian costs and thought to myself – “thank goodness Im in the US”.
    Second – I didn’t even know such a service or services exsisted. thus you have taught me something.
    Third – I do not like MedicAlert for price gauging it’s members and while I can appriciate their efforts in providing the service to some less fortunate I am dissapointed that other members such as yourself feel like you are being squeezed. (did I spell that right – no spell check here) Perhaps if enough members leave or threaten to leave they would reconsider their price hike.
    Sorry you have been delt this dilemma. Wish I could more than wish you luck.

    1. Thanks Christina!

      It’s funny, sometimes I look at stuff and go “Man, I should just move to the US”. It’s too bad I love Canada so much :]. It is brutal that we pay so much more for stuff, and the fact that MedicAlert is a part of this, as a non-profit organization, is just ridiculous and really unfortunate. But the thing is, though it seems Americans often have increased ACCESS to medical care [and likely higher quality at that as many Canadian trained doctors follow the pot of gold to the US], but do I feel that it’s right that everything is SO EXPENSIVE regarding care? Not at all. I feel that there needs to be some sort of happy-medium between location, cost-effectiveness, and the Almighty Dollar [which, as I said to Sara, is essentially at par].

      And the spelling doesn’t matter, just the words do :].

    1. Well, not cancelling, but letting it run out. I have till August to fully decide [unless they decide maybe they want me as a partner and give me free stuff? 😉 Lol], but I think I am going to get a RoadID interactive membership and engrave the access info for the [$10/year] database to other ID. My issue really is the contact info thing. I’m unsure HOW necessary it is, but with my crazy summers, I’d rather have something than nothing].

      Also, I totally want this: http://www.laurenshope.com/product/977/GP2/guitar-pick-with-black-tube-medical-id-necklace/size
      [and i think this is super cute too: http://www.laurenshope.com/product/2023/DT22/hot-pink-flower-medical-dog-tag-necklace/size%5D
      I like a lot of the bracelets from LaurensHope too, and they’ve been recommended by A LOT of people, so I am thinking of going that route + engraving the RoadID interactive bit.

  3. Wow… didn’t realize how crazy Canadian prices are! I always thought that their value of the Canadian dollar was NOT equal to the US dollar. Now all your talking in the past about how you like to go on that shopping trip here in the US makes a lot more sense! That’s INSANE! I would think that for a company who’s goal is to save lives they’d try to keep their prices affordable, but I guess that’s not how they work! I’m content with their service here, though I’d be in the same dilemma you’re in if I lived up North.

    1. I think it was my friend Tom that said on Twitter last night “a subscription to a service that is supposed to save your life is a ridiculously expensive idea.” I’m thinking he’s right — a fellow Canadian. It sucks because I feel so confident in the service, but here I am and on principle can barely continue to justify it. Sucks.

  4. Funny, every time I visit Canada I’m always amazed how cheap everything is… come to Europe 🙂

    But I agree, it still sucks.

    1. Could that be because as a more socialist country (socialized health care and more public universities), Canada’s taxes are higher than in the US? I’m pretty sure sales tax in Canada is a lot higher.

      1. It varies from province to province, but we pay higher prices than the US for things [probably to cover import or something] AND higher sales tax. Alberta is only 5% I think because of the oil they don’t have PST, but Saskatchewan is 10%, Manitoba is 12%, Ontario is 13%, and Quebec is 14.975%. So even huge variability within the provinces. The Yukon, NWT and Nunavut is only 5%. [You can see the rest here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sales_taxes_in_Canada%5D. We also pay sales tax on everything EXCEPT essential groceries, as opposed to say Minnesota, where there’s no tax on clothes or groceries [I think], but other products are subject to tax.

        1. We pay 18%, even my meds have sales tax on them, I think. Not sure if it’s the same rate though. What are you income taxes like? Here it’s 40% – 50%, far higher than UK.

  5. I have had US Medicalert since 1994 (one-time Regina resident though). At first I thought it was free membership. but, for 2012 it was $35. 2013 = $38. This year they demand $50. from me, not a red cent ever again. I am done with them. I believe that the internet has made them obsolete and redundantanyway. Any cop can retrieve anybody’s medical records in a matter of seconds. But now Medicalert is hawking their own credit card. What next? (for me, nothing). If all else fails, I will carry my MD’s business card. It has his phone number — welcome to the universe.

    1. Hi Doug!
      My apologies for taking so long to reply–but I appreciate another former-member sharing the same perspective as I do.
      Since quitting with MedicAlert, I took out a $9.99 a year RoadID Interactive plan. I then simply engrave the information to access my profile on whatever medical ID bracelets or necklaces I want (they just have to be big enough to fit all the info to access my profile on). MUCH more flexible, and MUCH, MUCH cheaper than MedicAlert–I’m happy to not be part of their madness anymore and to have another very suitable solution.

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