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United States Healthcare Compared to Australian Healthcare

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    Health care has become significant news recently, especially in the US with passing of Obamacare and costs have escalated dramatically over the recent years. Examining two health care systems, the United States and Australia’s, shows how they compare to each other. The United States and Australia share some similarities, but one considerable contrast: Australia has had a universal national health care system since 1984. Looking at the two systems strengths and weaknesses will show how each health care system benefits the citizens of each country. Showing how the two systems are similar and different will help to show which system is more about the countries citizens needs instead of cost. History of United States Health Care

    The United States has been trying to deal with health care for years, starting about 100 years ago with the government debating the best way to provide access to affordable health care for the American citizens. Science was sorely lacking in the practice of medicine until about the middle of the nineteenth century in the United States. Prior to this period, it was believed that the presence of disease in the body could be expelled by draining the blood, producing emesis, and/or colon cleansing expellants in an effort to rid the body of disease when in many instances more harm was done than good. For the first century, medical care was simple to obtain and relatively inexpensive. Today medical care quality is far better, but with the quality rising so has the cost of medical care. There have been some significant changes in health care that have influence the health care system today. One being the introduction of group health insurance as an employee benefit; this happened in the 1940s.

    Then Medicare and Medicaid was introduced in 1966, the government became part of the health insurance business and created programs that contributed to the country’s current deficit. In 1974, the HMO Act was introduced, this managed care was introduced to address the rising health care costs in the US. In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was enacted. This was an attempt to shake-up the unsustainable health care system that is currently in place. “Most Americans agree our healthcare system needs reform. That’s primarily because 45.7 million Americans are without health insurance. That’s roughly 16 percent of Americans who sometimes have to forego healthcare, or face crippling financial obligations. The primary issues are access to healthcare, and affordability of healthcare.” (Humana, 2013). Strengths and Weaknesses of the United States Health Care

    One of the strengths of American health care system is its sound private sector, which facilitates access to all manner of services for those with stable coverage and strongly encourages on-going medical innovation by product manufacturers. The rapid advance of medical technology over the past half century has unquestionably improved the health status for American citizens. Employer-sponsored insurance has played a vital role in retaining a strong private sector presence in the U.S. health sector. Employer-based insurance is flexible and can adjust quickly to changing patterns of accepted medical practice. Another strength to the US health care system is we are home to some of the finest medical facilities, technologies, treatments and medical talent. Foreigners who face significant health challenges come knocking on our door for treatment. It also generates more new job opportunities than any other part of our economy. One weakness for the United States health care system is that many individuals and small groups are denied insurance, primarily because to their preexisting conditions. Employer-based coverage is also a weakness of American health care as it has a failing that it is not portable or owned by the worker.

    It leaves a large gap in coverage for those without stable jobs. Many workers change jobs and insurance frequently, so there is little incentive for prevention. Today’s open-ended federal tax exemption for employer-paid premiums encourages overly expansive coverage, which is the fuel for rapid cost escalation. Another weakness for the United States health care system is that many individuals and small groups are denied insurance, primarily because to their preexisting conditions. Australian Health Care System

    Australia has experimented with many health care coverage schemes and provides an interesting framework and study for other systems contemplating similar changes to control costs, as costs are usually the reason for the change. National coverage for all citizens, changed the system to a private pay system, then reverted back to a national system in 1984. The country was formed in 1901with a federation of six states. The 1950’s following the post war years, brought about great changes of culture in the 1960’s. “Australia’s national public health insurance scheme, called Medicare, provides universal health coverage for citizens and permanent residents, as well as visitors and people on temporary visas from other countries that have reciprocal arrangements with Australia,” (Hall, 2011). Australia’s public health system is designed to give access to free or low cost medical, optometric and hospital care. Australia wants to make sure that its citizens and permanent residents have access to health care regardless of their personal circumstances. The health care system is financed through general taxation revenue. People can also take out private health insurance to go with the public health system as the system only provides subsidized medical services, subsidized pharmaceuticals, and free hospital treatment as a public patient. Strengths and Weaknesses of Australia Health Care

    The strength of Australia’s health system is its general practice foundation. Australia has good general practice who can work together with patients to improve health and ensure illness and risk factors are detected and dealt with early on. We must build on this strength by ensuring that there are enough general practices to care for patients when and where they need it, and that Medicare supports general practices working with other health professionals to improve patient care. General practice is not just about doctors any more, they are supported by practice nurses, allied health and preventive health care providers to ensure that they build on the strengths of Australia’s primary care network. The weakness in Australia’s health system is the uncertain state of information technology. Patients get tests from their general practices, and these tests are duplicated by a hospital; also medication can be prescribed by different doctors in different settings. With the duplication mistakes can be made, so there needs to be improved communication systems that can significantly reduce the number of duplication and errors. Similarities Between United States and Australian Health Care Systems A similarity between the United States and Australia’s health care systems is they are both called Medicare.

    Australia’s Medicare provides health care to Australia’s citizens; it is their national health care. The US Medicare program provides health insurance for people 65 and older, people with disabilities and people with end stage Renal Disease. Medicare in the United States provides hospital insurance, medical insurance and prescription drug coverage. Australia’s Medicare also provides coverage for public hospitals, medical coverage for seeing a general practitioner, and partial cost of prescription medication. Both programs are funded by the government through taxes. In the United States Medicare is funded by payroll taxes paid by most employees, employers, and people who are self-employed, as well as funds that are authorized by Congress. Australia’s Medicare is funded jointly by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. Both Medicare systems are also run by the country’s government with help managing by the country’s health departments. Both countries are trying to find a way to make sure that their citizens are taken care of medically. Both countries promote having private coverage to help with medical costs and quality of care received. Differences Between United States and Australia’s Health Care Systems Ironically the two countries Medicare systems is a similarity but it is also a difference between the two countries. The Australian system provides coverage to all citizens, while the United States system only provides health coverage to a few groups. It doesn’t cover every US citizen only the elderly and disabled. The difference in the two Medicare systems isn’t the only difference between the two countries. The quality of care provided is also a difference between the two countries; Australia tries to provide their citizens with the best care possible while keeping costs low. The United States, on the other hand, have high quality care, hospitals and physicians, which means the cost of this system is high. With all Australian citizens being provide health care, it has caused some issues such as long waiting lists to see a general practitioner as well as overcrowding in hospitals. While the United States has quality health care, the expense alone has produced its own problems in the system. The US health system is actually the most expensive in the world. There are more differences between the two nations health care system than similarities. Conclusion

    Looking at both countries it can be seen that Australia cares about it’s citizens and wants them to all have available health care, while the US provides health care to some groups but not all. The United States may have quality hospitals, advanced technology and excellent physicians but the cost of health care is enormous. US has the most expensive health care in the world. “Australia’s universal health care is a long way from Nirvana. Indeed, it underperforms the U.S. in some key respects. The great strength of the Australian system is affordability and access. In the U.S., publicly funded health care is confined to those over 65 and the very poor, with the remainder purchasing private insurance if they can (usually through their employer). Great swathes of low-income Americans fail to visit a physician or obtain needed prescriptions or tests because of the potential cost. Australia’s Medicare program offers cradle-to-grave health care for everyone.” (Mascarenhas, 2010).

    Berenson, Robert A, & Docteur, Elizabeth. (August 2009). How Does the Quality of U.S. Health Care Compare Internationally? Urban Institute. Retrieved from:,or.r_qf.&fp=153c2ae23a79a301&q=how+does+the+quality+of+u.s.+health+care+compare+internationally Hall, Jane. & Healy, Judith. (2011). The Australian Health Care System, 2011. The Commonwealth Fund. Retrieved from: How did healthcare come about in the United States? (2013). Stay Smart Stay Healthy. Retrieved from: Mascarenhas, Alan. (2010). What the US can learn from Aussie health care. Global Post. Retrieved from:

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