Here’s a little story that has nothing to do with catapults unless you stretch it to cover catapulting the US into Healthcare Norms for Developed Countries in the 21st Century.
Australia does have private health cover, but it’s a choice. If you want, you can pay your monthly premiums to be treated as a private patient. This means insurance for stays in private hospitals, faster access for elective surgery, a larger rebate on visits to the GP etc. (although the last doesn’t always apply: as a pensioner, I don’t necessarily pay for GP visits anyway, they’re what’s called ‘bulk billed’, and I have just had a flu shot and a shingles shot for nothing).
My sister doesn’t have private health cover. She is also on the age pension – which I should point out doesn’t mean we are both on the breadline, but explaining the Australian pension system is irrelevant here.
She has just had major abdominal surgery performed by the surgeon of her choice who may have been assisted by trainee surgeons as she’s a public patient in a teaching hospital, but that certainly made no difference to the outcome.
She is now in a 4-bed ward where a private patient would probably have a private room, but other than that, her post-operative care is no different. She is monitored and assessed with kindness, concern and absolute diligence. The surgeon visits daily, as does the physio. Yesterday she needed a quick scan of her stomach, and it was duly performed. Any medication she needs will be provided.
I’m sure the thing that automatically springs to mind here is that it’s easier for us given our population is so much smaller. The ‘population’ part is true, the ‘easier’ – not so much.
Australia is a big country – roughly the same size as the contiguous states of US – requiring a big infrastructure: roads, railways, public transport, access to water and electricity etc, quite apart from healthcare and education. It’s population, on the other hand, is less than the population of California. Result? Far, far fewer taxpayers coughing up the dollars to pay for it. So no, not so easy after all.
No system is perfect, and the Australian healthcare system is no exception. Sometimes it lets people down. But at least it’s there, and for the most part, it does its job well.
I suppose the conclusion here is that it’s all a matter of priorities. It all depends on how you choose to spend the money you have.