• Sicko

    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.


    Categories: What the...?

    4 thoughts on “Sicko

    • Tors says:

      I really enjoyed “Sicko”, and actually cried at the end. But I think Michael Moore was very clear to say that the movie wasn’t about people with no health insurance, but people WITH health insurance who are being jerked around by their providers when they actually try to use it. And it’s true – my brother had minor surgery a few years ago, and had to go to hell and back to get his insurer to pony up the money for it. When he was supposed to be covered!

      Private health insurance in Australia is 1000% better about paying claims, IME. And we don’t even pay $100/month for family coverage – you just gotta shop around.

      Some companies give out corporate rates with private health providers, but I haven’t seen it as an actual benefit of employment (for PRs and citizens, that is) – maybe because everyone is already covered by Medicare and getting an extras package for dental/optical is so comparitively inexpensive that it isn’t seen as necessary? I dunno.

      Medicare covers doctor’s visits 100% if the doctor “bulk-bills”. Unfortunately, it’s harder and harder these days to find a bulk-billing doc. Sometimes they bulk-bill only for children, or only when you have an HCC HCCs make it cheaper, but don’t necessarily cover more… it’s at the discretion of the doc. I used to go to a doc that charged everyone the same, HCC or not. 🙁 Like everything else, you just gotta shop around.

      I’ll tell you this much. In the past 4 years I’ve lived here, I’ve been hospitalised twice, my youngest son was also hospitalised twice (one time for 2.5 weeks) and is still getting all kinds of follow-up treatment… and I am SO glad we live here and have Medicare. It’s not the best system in the world, surely, but it’s better than having a segment of society with nothing at all. Or having to deal with US insurance companies while you’re already stressed with having a child in hospital. Blech.

    • Y says:

      Oh yea, I know that the documentary was about the people who did have insurance but after watching it I was very concerned since I was one of the lucky few who had excellent benefits that was paid for by my job in the US.

      I don’t have any experience with the private health insurance here other than we have been shopping around for it and our premium ranges depending on the type of cover we want. We have decided to hold off on getting it just yet until we find what we’re looking for and/or we understand the service better.

      Luckily our doctor bulk-bills. Remember, early on when we had gotten here and I was looking for a doctor? Well I thoroughly searched and found an amazing practice so we’re very happy with them AND they’re open on the weekends for emergencies (which is a rarity here) AND they bulk-bill after a certain amount of visits. MJ and LJ have reached that number of visits so they bulk-bill for them but I’ve only been there once for myself so not yet for me.

      Thanks for the information! Since I’m really knew here I’m still trying to wade through unknown waters so I tend to post from my experience and I really do appreciate when I get other input! And I’m glad you’ve had good experiences with the health insurance here so that makes me hopeful!

    • Tors says:

      Oh yeah, it definitely depends. If you had good insurance in the States, then you’ll probably feel deprived. Did you know that BY LAW, private insurance cannot cover most medical procedures unless they’re done in a hospital setting? *eek* But if you had really crap insurance (or nothing) in the States, it’s a marked improvement.

      Glad to hear you found a good doc! We’re still looking for a good one… seems like they all leave after a year or so. 🙁

    • Y says:

      Didn’t know about the hospital thing. Good to know. That might explain why my gyno at the hospital was asking for private health insurance but the receptionist screwed up and scheduled me to see her at the hospital rather than her private clinic.

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