Most non-Canadians know two things about that country’s health care system:
1. It’s run by the government.
2. Canada drugs are a popular worldwide purchase via Internet pharmacies.
It’s interesting to compare the health care systems of Canada and Australia. In both, any resident or tourist is eligible for totally free health care, and emergencies are treated right away. Both also share a negative feature: long waits for public non-emergency treatment. In parts of Australia, the wait for public health care treatment can extend to over a year. But there is a big difference in Australia – the presence of reasonably-priced private insurance. Armed thusly, an Aussie resident can get treatment right away. Canada is a single-payer system, similar to Medicare, although private insurance is also available there.
Almost ten percent of Australia’s GDP goes to healthcare, amounting to $121.4 billion in 2010. By the way, the US spent $2.6 trillion, or 17.9 percent of GDP on health care in that same year. Canada in 2009 spent $183.1 billion on health care, a little over ten percent of GDP. About 17 percent of that figure went towards Canada drugs. In Canada, citizens must pay their own pharmaceutical, optometric and dental costs. Canadians can buy supplementary insurance, but it doesn’t affect the waiting time for treatment. There are, however, private entities that sell priority access to medical services. Canadian physicians mostly receive fee per service, but a few are on salary. So the Canadian model is public funding, private delivery.
Australia (81.4 years) and Canada (81.3) rank first and second, respectively, in the G8 for life expectancy. The US is last, at 78.1 years.
Australia’s system is called Medicare. It receives partial funding by a 1.5 percent income tax charge, although low-income residents are exempt. High income earners without private insurance are assessed an additional one percent tax. The separate Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme subsidizes many prescriptions. The largest private health insurer in Australia is Medibank Private — it’s government owned but operates privately, much like the US Post Office. Oversight of the private portion of the health system is administered by the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman. Australian private insurers use a community rating system, whereby premiums are not entirely dependent upon a patient’s current or previous health status, although a 12-month period for pre-existing conditions can be imposed.
Both countries ban health care discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, employment or leisure activities.