“The amazing thing is there are people who’ve never left this country, who talk about the fact that we’re the greatest country on Earth. How fucking dumb is that? Because you don’t know! If you haven’t left here, you don’t know. There are countries that may be giving shit away every day. Canada is one of those countries. You know what they give away? HEALTH INSURANCE!” - Lewis Black
Australia gives away health insurance too, but there isn’t a Lewis Black quote about that.
My first experience with socialized medicine came in 2004 while studying abroad in Spain. After a few days of fever and coughing, I decided that it was time to go to the clinic. One doctor visit, two chest x-rays, and four prescription drugs later, I was out a grand total of… €65. Not even shitting you. I paid €65 for all of that and I didn’t even have insurance. Pretty spiffy. Fast forward to 2009 in Seattle. I came down with a similar respiratory infection, went to the doctor, got diagnosed, and took my prescriptions to the pharmacy. The grand total: $120 including my doctor visit and prescription co-pays. There wasn’t even one x-ray involved let alone two! Now tell me, how can I pay so much less in Spain for so much more – a country where I am not a resident nor do I have any form of health care – than I do in the United States – a country where I am a citizen and have a halfway decent medical plan? The answer:
The stress of a hectic financial year end at work drove my health into the gutter last week. After a few days of coughing and achiness, I decided that I best make a trip to the doctor. This was my first trip to the doctor in Australia and I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t get Australian Medicare as I am only a temporary resident at this point, so I was going to have to pay out of pocket and send the receipts to my private health insurance company. So I checked in, sat down, and prepared myself for the endless wait that is the inevitable when seeing a doctor.
I was in to see the doctor in about 3 minutes. And I think I spent about 5 minutes total with him. He asked me about my symptoms and listened to my breathing with that little device that doctors always have, then told me that I have a respiratory infection. He then asked about any allergies or bad reactions to medications I’ve had in the past, gave me a prescription, and sent me on my merry way. Grand total at the doctor’s office: $65.
$65. That’s it. Do you know how much going to the doctor in the United States would cost without insurance??? Probably upwards of $250… AND they make you wait for an hour. Hell, even with insurance, $65 at the doctor is a pretty good result. And better yet – I get a full reimbursement from my insurance company here because this doctor’s office charges Medicare rates.
And then there were my antibiotics. A whopping $23.50. That’s less than most co-pays for the same damn drug in the US. How is this possible???
Taxes appear to be substantially lower for lower and middle income earners in Australia than they are in the US, though Australia taxes the rich a lot more (as they should). Now, let’s make sense of all of this. Lower and middle income-earning Australians pay a lower tax rate than they probably would in the United States AND they get government funded health insurance and what appears to be subsidized prescription drugs. This makes too much sense.
In summation, this place is great.
Oh, and America’s health care system is fucked.
p.s. Mom, if you're reading this, I'm fine and there is no need to worry about me.