06 March 2009

My Experiences with the Australian Health Care System

This week, I gave Australia's Health Care System a workout. We went to the Dentist on Monday, the GP on Wednesday, and the Optometrist today (Friday). Also a couple of weeks ago, Neo had a high fever that lasted a couple of days. We went to a walk in clinic to have him checked out. I'll relate our experiences here.

My first experience was with the walk in clinic. Neo had been having high fevers. I asked at school where to go, they recommended a medical clinic that is located in the mall. When we arrived, they took our information, and asked us to wait. The waiting room was large, comfortable, and packed. The movie "Twister" was playing on a large screen attached to the wall. There was a small screen in the corner that had information announcements. They told me the wait would be 45 minutes - and it was. A triage nurse brought Neo and I into a room with several exam cots. His temperature was taken and I was asked about his symptoms. Then we were asked to wait in the waiting room again.

Two of the walls of the waiting area are glass windows, so I took Neo, who was not happy about being at the doctor, outside to play on the play equipment. I could see into the waiting area. Every so often, a person would appear at the end of the hallway an call a name. I stood where I could see in case they called us early. By the time Neo's turn had come up, he was really crying and agitated.

The doctors call their own patients. We followed her back to a crammed room with an exam table, a desk/computer and a couple of chairs. The doctor did a through check of him. Checked his throat and ears twice. She was sure he must be extremely ill because he was so worked up. She was very concerned about him and wrote me a referral for the emergency room in the event that he wasn't better. He was much better the moment we left. This clinic "bulk bills" Medicare. We have not received a bill for services, yet.

On Monday, we went to the dentist. This is a private practice, and part of the network of providers for our private insurance. Dentists clean their patient's teeth, not the hygienist as they do in the US. I talked about this with the dentist. He said that hygienists are not given as much authority in Australia as in the US. The dentist also had a movable spit sink. Yes, they used the vacuum tubes, just have both. Each of us had a cleaning, exam, and fluoride treatment. The cost was $180 per person. Fully covered by our private health insurance. I think the cost is about the same as in the US.

I had received a voucher for Clara to receive cleaning, exam, x-ray, and sealants, as necessary, courtesy of Medicare. The receptionist said they do not bill Medicare and wouldn't take it.

On Wednesday, I took Zoe and Neo in for their annual physicals since Neo turned 2 then we put him on a plane and Zoe had a birthday in January. Even with an appointment, we waited for quite a while. The clinic was in a Medical center, we were just downstairs from the Dentist's office we had been to on Monday.

Again the doctor called their own patients. We were lead into the doctor's office. There was an exam room attached to the office. For the children's physicals, they were measured and weighed. They had their breath sounds listened to. They had their eyes and ears looked at, and that was all. No dressing gowns. No pressing on the stomach. No blood pressure check. The cost was $63 each. They expected full payment at the time of service. A low price compared to the US.

Zoe & Neo received an ice cream cone with a face for a treat following doctor visit

I received reimbursement from the Medicare office. It was very easy to walk in. The line moved quickly. No forms needed. Just provide the card, and the paid bills. The end result was a "co-pay" of $30 each.

On Friday, Zoe and I had our eyes examined. She had received a questionable result from Shorewood school - after 2 tests - just before we left the US. So I wanted to have her checked out. Her eyesight is not 20/20, yet. But some children don't reach 20/20 until they are a little older then she is. The doctor said she thought Zoe's eyesight is fine and she'll be to 20/20 in a year or 2. No concern.

For me, they performed all the tests that they do in the US. The results are the same...I need reading glasses because of my aging eyes. The cost was $55 each, billed directly to Medicare. Again the cost was much lower then in the US.

Australia has a single payer health care system called Medicare. It's a relatively new system - it became law in 1974. Private insurance is still necessary, and encouraged. There are two different hospital systems - private care and public care. Our understanding is that if you need to have a procedure done, and you don't have private health insurance, you are wait listed. With private doctors, you can have the procedure done right away. If an Australian citizen does not purchase and maintain hospitalization insurance by the time they are 31, there is an additional fee attached to the premiums for each year not covered when they purchase it later in life. There is also a private health insurance rebate of 30% - so your private insurance premium is supplemented by Medicare. Dental care is not included in Medicare, although there is some discussion about adding this.

We have private medical insurance. I wanted hospitalization coverage for emergencies and we need dental coverage. I researched many different companies. In the end, I chose Medibank. Medibank is actually government owned. I chose Medibank because of the availability of providers in the network.

1 comment:

tony roberts said...

Great post! just watched SICKO WITH MICHEAL MOORE what a docu! very bad situ for public in U.S. Was worrying about healthcare in Australia as i am movin to Adelaide soon and looked on top rated healthcare and its about 40 in rating America being about 50 out of 200, but Aus dosnt sound as bad now read your experience. Any tips would be much appriciated about healthcare. what about emergencies e.g heart attack and you had been robbed so no wallet, would they just leave u to die?

Kind regards

Tony from England