Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

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.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
12th Aug, 2009 21:36 (UTC)
MMM, we're definitely not perfect, but when I hear some of the American people on the flist and what they have to go through... thank god I'm here.

Edited at 2009-08-12 21:37 (UTC)
12th Aug, 2009 23:32 (UTC)
I'm reminded every time I travel to the US. You have to take out travel insurance over and above what is required for the rest of the world. Mostly it covers getting you back to Australia. The cost of medical evacuation from the US is exorbitant, and this isn't me, this is the Department of Foreign Affairs:
13th Aug, 2009 01:38 (UTC)
I wanted to stay in Australia for the health benefits alone. :(

Yeah, best potential health care in the world... if you can afford it. Sadly, if I came down with cancer, I would basically have to chose the beyond stressful inability to pay for things, taking my family down with me financially... or death. All in all, given the US equation, death would probably be my choice. I really hate our system. I can't begin to explain how much. :(
15th Aug, 2009 09:38 (UTC)
And if you thought the price wasn't right...
This should scare the bejeesus out of anyone thinking private health care is a good thing. There was a series of articles titled "Dead by Mistake" produced by the Hearst newspaper chain (sad when there's more news in a Hearst newspaper than can be found on CNN). This is the beginning one, from the Seattle paper: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/409137_wamoore10.html, because hospitals get paid whether they mess up or not. Actually, if they mess up, they can hide it and bill you more. Even the Economist says that capitalism makes no sense in health care--isn't that shocking.
BTW, sorry to hear about your mom. rs
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )