hawkeye (hawkeye7) wrote,

Health Care in Australia

My mother was in hospital recently. An ambulance took her away to Emergency at Cavlary Hospital (a private hospital, now being transferred back to the public sector). The hospital is lavishly well equipped. She spent a week in observation. MediCare - our version of universal health care - picked up the bill. Total cost: zero.

Medicines in the hospital were free, but they also wrote out a script for some for her to take after leaving. These are government subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. My mother also gets a senior's discount. I paid out of the change in my pocket: $2.15.

While they were in office, the Liberals brought in incentives to carry private health insurance. In all, they pumped over a billion dollars into that industry, all wasted. (That's the Audit Office's official verdict, not just my value judgement.) The whole thing was ideologically driven. It would be advantageous for me to carry private health insurance. I could buy some cheap insurance, claim all of its cost back from the company I work for (so it would be free), and avoid a tax surcharge, which is substantial. If injured, I could then deny all knowledge of it. This is what my workmates do. I refuse. I hate insurance companies and the idea of giving them money for nothing pisses me off.

I've been to hospital twice myself in the past decade. The first time I fell from the bike after braking for a car that didn't look before backing out a driveway and dislocated my shoulder. I went to Emergency where they popped my arm back in. Because I was on my way to work, WorkCare picked up the bill rather than MediCare. Total cost: zero. More recently I had a fall from the bike during a training ride and needed stitches. Another visit to Emergency where they sewed up the gash on my face. They also X-rayed me for the possibility of concussion. Total cost: zero.

I'm not holding Australia up as an example of world's best practice. In 2005, the World Health Organization ranked Australia 29th in terms of spending (8.8% of GDP) (the US, which spent 15.2% of its GDP on health, ranked second). In terms of outcomes, Australia was ranked only 32nd in the world (while the US was 37th). Several countries like the United Kingdom and Spain spent less and achieved better outcomes, which is a major concern here.
Tags: politics
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