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Friday, 24 October 2008

The Joys of Universal Health Care

In Australia we have had universal health care since the 1970s.

I still remember queuing with my first doctor's receipt in the new shiny medicare office and leaving with a FULL CASH REBATE there and then!

It was a wonderful relief. There is nothing worse than not being able to afford treatment for something that is nagging away at you and your children.

During the regime of the Howard Government, voted out after eleven years last November, Medicare was watered down, creating consternation.

We have been paying increasing amounts ourselves as a result.

Hospital standards have also plumetted because Federal funding was not so forthcoming to the States

Howard wiped out dental care leaving many Australians with holes in their teeth - until recently very rare here.

However the new government is pro health care and hopefully things won't slide further.

They are re-introducing dental treatment for pensioners for instance. Plain sense when rotten teeth are so fundamental to bad health.

My visit to hospital and the ambulance cost me absolutely NOTHING because I am a pensioner.

People earning good money can choose to have private hospital insurance and if they don't, must pay a levy in their tax, and then they get subsidised treatment. They must pay for pharmaceuticals however.

Tests and treatment at private facilities that mostly have shorter waiting lists are very expensive without insurance.

Mental health care is free if you can get it at a public hospital. The problem is the public system has been neglected in those recent years and it's very hard to get into a psychiatric ward, particularly outside the cities.

I feel very comfortable about receiving free health care because I paid good taxes during forty working years. That's what it should be all about isn't it? Make your contribution to earn a safety net for when things go wrong?

Those better off should be there for people not in a position to make such a contribution. Good health care for every part of a society is a national asset and it is humane.

I just heard on the radio that although Australia is not likely to enter a recession in the near future we will FEEL as though we are in one!

Our commodity prices are suffering because of the international problems, prices are rising and confidence is not what it was.

So everything has a question mark over it - health services included.


  1. Well, I hope you don't lose it! And I surely wish we could get it. Maybe, maybe things will change for us here, I surely hope so! Hope you're feeling better. I'm holding good thoughts for you.

  2. I wasn't aware you'd been ill. I do hope you're on your way to good health now.

    I am anxious to see some kind of healthcare reform in this country. I feel sure we will not get universal healthcare in my lifetime. Perhaps we will get some form of Barack Obama's plan. I haven't even heard dental work mentioned.

    My fear in this country is that under Democrats healthcare would thrive and it would decline under Republicans. We desperately need to make some changes. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    Take care and get healthy

  3. It's amazing how things can change for the better as well as the worse Sylvia. A good President and a good administration can do wonders, although they'll be behind the eight ball.
    I'm fine thanks.

  4. Thanks Linda
    I really believe health care is fundamental to a caring society ...
    However it will be very hard to get justice for all for a while now.
    As you say Obama may be able to work towards something for all of you.
    Good luck

  5. Jean I saw something on TV just this week about thousands of people lined up in Virginia to get free dental and medical care - a very decent doctor had arranged to set up a caravan and was able to get volunteer medical staff to help.

    It shocked me as to the number of people queuing who couldnt even get the most basic of care. Thousands were turned away. We are lucky but I guess we shouldnt take everything for granted as this 'too may pass'.

    Then I got an email from a guy in Washington this week about his mother and all her medical bills. It must be frightening to say the least. Our health is THE most important thing.

    By the way, I hope you are feeling a lot better! Enjoy the sunshine, it is freezing down south!

  6. If Obama wins the presidential election here, we may get a decent health care plan that people can afford. I hope so. My son pays a fortune for health care for his family. I am fortunate in that I retired from state government with health insurance provided but no dental insurance. I am glad you are doing o.k.

  7. Lilly
    I saw that on tele the other night as well. It's good that such shortcomings in a system are getting some attention from the media at last.
    Did you see the Australian news item about 6,000 people queuing up in a Brisbane suburb for a hand out of food last week?
    We all know that there have been a lot of miserable people in 'advanced' countries for a long time, but to date the issue has largely been ignored. (See my post "Two Sides of the Coin at Cooly in August). Now people understand that there but the grace of ... the problem is at least getting some recognition.
    I think Australia has become a much more selfish country since 1996, but hopefully that is turning around now.
    I had a long sleeve T on yesterday - strange weather.

  8. Hello again Judy.
    I'm pleased you're protected. It gives one a warm feeling.
    The reverse would be awful.

  9. Thanks to some greedy people, we are all going through some difficult times.

    In India our health care is a mixed approach. We have free medical care at all public hospitals, and public government clinics and dispensaries. Then there are the several doctors who privately practice in their own clinics and refer patients to big hospitals. And then we also have these super speciality private hospitals , which charge a bomb, and probably manage to get you into an anxious mental state by the time they physically cure you. (Since we live on the campus of a government institute where my husband works, we are covered for all medical problems.)

    I do see medical insurance here becoming more and more common, and we need to learn what happens from the developed countries. It seems to me that coming up in the world and being tagged as a developed country , goes hand in hand with the sort of medical woes you write about.

    But things change. For the better. We need to learn to hope.

    June, hope everything goes well for you at the GP check up. ....


  10. Thanks Suranga.
    Tell me - how is your economy coping? How is the global crisis affecting you?
    Being 'tagged' as you say muat bring disquieting moments when you see what's happening eveywhere else.
    As well, is your development affecting people across the board or has the gap between the haves and have nots remained stable?
    It's interesting that you have private and public systems for health. And I'm pleased your family is covered okay.

  11. At my age, I have Medicare, of course with a supplement. But the supplement goes up every year even though I very seldom ever go to the doctor. It started out at $87 a month when I was 65 and now the first of the year, after I'm 73, it will go up again this time to $166 a month.

  12. Wow Margie - that's a lot to handle. Let's hope these things change one day soon. Although I think you'd be lucky.
    Keep well.

  13. I've been thinking Margie - your system means that oldies are slugged with a double payment just when they're less likely to have money. I know that's also the time you're probably going to need more money spent on you, but surely there is a way to even out the pain? Courses in empathy should be mandatory for people making those sort of decisions.

  14. June, I'm so sorry you were ill and am hoping you are making a complete recovery.

    Here's a sad little tale of the underinsured in America.

    I'm sure you remember the awful saga of what happened to my sister when she went to the emergency room of our local hospital when in the downward phase of her bipolar illness. After she was involuntarily sent to another hospital (after a night on the cement floor of a jail cell), she spent 3 days in the mental ward of a hospital in a town over 100 miles away.

    Here's the kicker: She's been getting bills from the hospital here, from a psychiatrist who never saw her, and NOW comes a bill from the far-away hospital for over $1000. This is her share after Medicare paid their share.

    This is a woman who is getting by on $900 a month disability from Social Security. As you might imagine, the pressure on her now is once again building...

  15. Clairz I have tears in my eyes ...
    I can understand what you and Aunty are going through. My tears are beginning to give way to anger ...

    Life is so unjust for people who have done nothing to deserve their lot.

    I visited Aunty's blog yesterday and felt that she was a bit down, and left a message. Take care of her - and yourself. That's not just being maternalistic!

    When is society going to wake up to the fact that probably one in four people in your culture and mine will suffer a mental illness in their life time? That many others - families, friends, employers, etc etc will be affected?

    On the grounds of simple self preservation you'd think we wouldn't allow any of this to happen.
    Hugs - big hugs

  16. June, you are such a sweetie! Your kind warmth can be felt all the way around the world.

  17. June, I agree with Clairz you are a sweetie - a well educated, well informed one at that.

    Just wanted to tell you the prize from WTBAY was because I think I checked out all the links that were on that week - a bit like the most improved player or something. I was happy! What a hoot - WTBAY is actually quite good I have to say because I discovered all these new Aussie blogs too. For some reason they are a bit hard to come by - who would have thought? Have a great Sunday.

  18. If I'm a sweetie Clairz that makes two of us!
    I got so hot thinking of the injustice there's no wonder you felt my warmth. Take care

  19. Dearest Lilly
    Thank you.
    Yes, I think we're in the early days of blogging we Aussies. If you start late ...
    The pollies didn't get it together to give us the technology earlier on.
    If you are still 'improving' my girl heaven help us!

  20. By the way Lilly
    I'm off to a concert of the Northern Rivers Symphony Orchestra this afternoon.

    Seems a bit of a challenge but not at all.

    They're a great group of amateurs led by a man who's wanted to be a conductor all of his life. He earns his living as a banana farmer. Another injustice as he has heaps of talent ... More on this later.

  21. Hi June, thanks for stopping by my blog earlier.

    I too hope medicare sorts itself out. I really wish for a dental plan too, the waiting list is 3 years or so in Qld for a checkup. i kept some extras health cover, as it covered a checkup/clean etc twice a year, but now its part payment, so a bit hard on the pocket. I have dental issues that need a lot of work in the future and am a bit worried about the cost. when I was told I would have to fork out $200 for a saliva test, no rebate, I did not go back.. which is bad for my teeth's future

  22. An urgent PS re the Northern Rivers Symphony Orchestra comment Lilly:
    I made a mistake - orchestra members are no longer just amateurs/volunteers. More and more professionals are supporting the orchestra and the quality is really improving greatly. More about that in a looming post. I really enjoyed the concert.

  23. Dee
    Here's hoping the new government can squeeze out enough money from this mess to re-install the old dental scheme eh? It would make such a difference to a lot of people.

  24. I am employed only part-time and pay $500 to keep my health insurance from last employer. It is an enormous burden when my income has plummeted.

    Sorry to hear you've not been feeling well, and I hope you are on the mend.

  25. Whew Tropigal. How often do you need to pay the $500?
    Thanks for the good wishes. I feel fine.


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