- A Look at Healthcare in Australia
Australia’s Medicare system, a health care system like Japan’s National Health Insurance system, automatically covers Australian citizens (of course), people with a permanent resident visa, New Zealand citizens living in Australia, and some people visiting Australia from overseas.
Medicare is a healthcare support system operated by the Australian government that gives free healthcare at public hospitals and general practitioners (GPs, although at some GPs it’s self-pay), and partial support for other healthcare services and pharmaceuticals, which makes them cheaper. The benefit of Medicare is that hospitalization and medical care are free if it’s at a public hospital, so everything is free even when have a baby.
You buy your pharmaceuticals from any pharmacist by presenting the prescription from your doctor or GP. The pharmacy staff will say to you “There is a cheaper brand. Which one would you like?” So, you have the option of choosing a cheaper product, say an antibiotic, which has the same active ingredients.
Unlike Japan, you have to pay for all dental costs yourself, so one bad tooth will cost you $150 to $200 (about 13,000 yen). When I had my wisdom tooth pulled out a while ago, X-rays showed it was crooked and wasn’t growing straight, so my dentist referred me to a specialist who pulled it out for $550 (about 46,000 yen). That was at least 10 years ago, so it is probably more expensive now. Another time, quite a long time ago now, I went to my GP to have a specialist check my irregular heartbeat. When you want to go to a specialist in Australia, you also have to go to your GP first and tell them your symptoms, then the GP gives you a referral letter for the specialist, which makes it a bit complicated. I got the referral for a specialist and had lots of tests, but in the end they couldn’t find the cause. What I was told is that I should take a magnesium supplement, and that was the end of it. The total medical bill was $1,100 (about 93,500 yen). About 57-percent of people in Australia have private health insurance because of this sort of thing. The cost of private health insurance varies a lot with all the different options, but it is by no means cheap.
When you work for a company in Australia, there are no health checks you can get free like at a Japanese company, but once every 2 years the government urges people to have a breast cancer check and a cervical cancer check, and you have these checks done free at your GP. They even send out letters notifying you that 2 years will be up soon and that you should get your check-up before long. They also do bowel cancer checks free. In Australia where there’s over 6-times more sunshine than Japan, the skin cancer rate is higher than Japan’s by an order of magnitude, so lots of people also get a regular skin cancer check. By the way, although in Japan it may be a no-no to wear sunglasses, depending on the time and the place, in Australia it isn’t rude to wear sunglasses even at ceremonial functions when they are held outside, even at weddings and funerals. It’s more important to protect your eyes and skin from ultraviolet light.
I was also surprised that the rate of general anesthesia is higher than Japan. You get general anesthesia even when they put a camera into your stomach. I have had treatment under a general anesthetic a number of times in Australia, even though it was a local-anesthetic treatment in Japan.
Without being able to go straight to a specialist, as you can in Japan, and having to pay a lot for dental care, one way or another there are inconveniences, but thanks to that, I am particularly careful about looking after my teeth and managing my health. After all, health comes first, right?