Being Sick Sucks. Or a Lesson in Australian Universal Healthcare.

Sydney. Still yet to see it.
Sydney. Still yet to see it.

It’s 75 degrees and sunny out. Why am I so cold? I am shivering.  Sore throat. Headache. Tired. Low Energy. Hurts just to take a sip of water. Feels like needles going down throat. Voice gone. Stomach pain. Painful cough. Ears hurt. Whole head feels congested. I just want to sleep. But I am so cold. Night sweats.  I feel miserable.

The constant travel of 5 weeks in the southern hemisphere has caught up to me as I have been hit with a sickness about four days ago. Arriving to Australia on April 20, I signed up to get my Australian Medicare Card the day I arrived. More as a matter or administrative work along with getting a bank account than any inclination that I would be getting ill. But it turned out to be a good idea. I don’t have health insurance nor do I have a job. So medicare is my coverage out here. I have not actually paid into the system yet as I do not have a job yet, but I do not feel that I am a complete drain to the Aussie economy. I pay plenty in the GST / Sales tax; plus this place is very expensive!

Coming from America, where I only know how one healthcare system works, the U.S. System. With insurance, a doctors visit generally costs you a copay of around $20. But your insurance cost a month is more than $150. And then you still have to pay for any prescriptions the doctor advises. It is a similar process in Australia as we shall see, except I am not paying the insurance/levy yet.

$246/ month is the cheapest option listed for covered California / Obamacare (LINK). I most recently lived in CA so using that as my comparison with a salary of only $55k noted and still $246 was the monthly premium. I don’t have to pay any monthly amount in Australia for my Medicare card, yet.  I will have to pay a Medicare levy when I get a job of 2% of annual pay.  So if someone makes $100,000 AUD, he will pay $166/month on Medicare Levy, still less than the covered California options available.

Been Stuck in Bed
Been Stuck in Bed

Anyway, to my story of how it works down under. Saturday I had finally gotten fed up with feeling so terrible and decided to see the doctor. A quick Google search and one phone call and I had an appointment within two hours. Great! Some slight paperwork on my details when I arrived and I saw the doctor within 10 minutes of my appointment.

Doctor: “Hi, I ‘m Doctor So and So. I am one of the doctors on staff. Why are you here?”
Me: “I’m sick and don’t feel well.”
Doc: “Ok, let’s take your temperature . . . Oh wow. You’re at 39.2.”
Me “That means nothing to me.”
Doc: “That’s’ 102.5 F.”
Me: “Oh, that’s a bit high.”
Doc: “Yes.”
Doc: “Let me check your breathing. And your throat.”

After a few minutes of the whole breathe in breathe out test the conclusion was that I potentially had a respiratory infection.  A prescription for antibiotics and to take Paracetamol (called Tylenol to us Americans) to reduce my fever.

I was out of the office in less than ten minutes from when I was called in.

$35 effective Co-pay out the door payment for the doctor.
It would have been $72.05 to see the doctor without the Medicare card. So I saved myself $37.05 by having the card. Still $72 would be cheaper than a cash out of pocket visit to an American doctor. Urgent care in the U.S costs more that $100 and you have to wait who knows how long.

$18.50 for the antibiotics (amoxicillin). Picked up with a prescription at the pharmacy. The antibiotics were in my hand in less than 3 three minutes. I have never had a prescription filled so quickly. Granted the pharmacist did not have to count any pills but rather put a sticker on the box of antibiotics and hand it over to me. But no subsequent questions asked. Everything she needed was on the prescription. No more forms or typing of info.  Just a “here you go.”    Sweet!

$8.50 for pack of 100 Paracetamol (Tylenol).

With meds in hand, I am on the road to recovery.

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine go Down.
A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine go Down.

I do estimate that I would have paid more out of pocket in America had I not had any insurance.  The doctor visit alone for a cash payment would have been over $100 plus any retail price on the drugs.  Plus as noted, the actual medicare levy fee is less.  Plus the wait time was not bad at all.  I was fitted in on a Saturday morning.  Who knows if many doctors work on a Saturday in the States.

From my sample size of one event, the Australian Healthcare system seems to work well.

But I would still rather be healthy.



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