MJ and I watched Michael Moore’s Sicko for the first time the other day and we were shocked to see the horror many people in the US go through because of health insurance. In the States, we were very aware of health insurance or the lack thereof being a major issue. At MJ’s job in the US, health insurance was offered but it wasn’t comprehensive and for a family of 3, he would have had to pay about $200 each paycheck with a $25 copay for each medical visit and prescribed medication. That was just unacceptable. As a result, I knew I was blessed with a job that provided full medical, dental, optical, and drug insurance with only a $5 copay. So you can understand why I was very hesitant to leave the job that provided excellent benefits. But I did and now I’m struggling to make my way around Australia without health insurance because it is a rarity to find a job that provides any type of health insurance as a benefit.
In Australia, every citizen and resident gets a Medicare card which partially reimburses some medical visits. If the doctor’s visit charges, $75 you may get about $40 once you submit a copy of the receipt to the Medicare office (so you only really paid $35 for the visit). Other than that, you can pay for your own health insurance which could cost you at the very least $100+ a month. Some people qualify for Health Concession Card which helps you with what Medicare doesn’t reimburse. For instance, instead of being charged $75 and only getting back $40, you might only get charged $60 and get back $30 (so you only really paid $30). Well, I’m not too sure about the numbers but basically the gist is that you won’t have to pay as much and some things are completely covered (I had an ultrasound done and I didn’t have to pay anything because MJ wasn’t working and we qualified for a health card concession at the time).
The health care system here is a bit complicated (at least in my opinion) but there are some things that aren’t too bad such as some hospital visits are free and drug prices are capped. However, none of this helps you with dental or optical. MJ wanted to get a new pair of glasses and it was going to come out to $500 so we quickly walked away and decided wait until we visit the US and see if we can get a pair there.
So anyway, the documentary just made me worry about what can we do about health insurance. I don’t know where Australia’s health system/insurance falls on the list of the best countries to live in with health coverage for its people. And I’ve been here less than 6 months so I still have a lot to learn about what’s offered here and what’s not. But I am worried – possibly not as much as I would have been in the US if I didn’t have a job with full benefits but worried nonetheless. I went to the dentist a couple of days ago and I was very dissappointed with the visit. It was the first time I had ever been to him and he just quickly checked for cavities and quickly brushed my teeth and that was all. Oh wait, he complimented my teeth but that was it and it cost me $90! So I can’t imagine what’s going to happen when it’s time to get LJ some braces. Maybe we should move to France or England.