The Health of Nations (and Don’t Forget Australia)

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I just got around to reading Ezra Klein‘s Health of Nations article in The American Prospect. It’s a wonderfully clear description of how the health care systems of Canada, France, Germany and our own Veterans’ Administration work (Ezra’s verdict: better than the private U.S. system).

It’s fine work, marred only by Ezra’s egregious failure to mention the great nation of Australia (that man’s anti-Antipodean bias will be his downfall, I say). Happily, though, several Aussies commented on my Wednesday post about health care, one of them (Marcus by name) offering this description of how things work down there:

Everyone pays a levy that guarantees a basic level of service. The basic costs of visits to doctors (Physicians and some specialists), accident and emergency care, and elective surgency etc are all covered as part of that package based on a set fee structure. Pharmaceuticals are bought in bulk through the government and the price to consumers is reduced and subsidised as a result.

The problems with the system are that there are long waiting lists for elective surgery, and at times there is limited choice (some doctors charge over and above the fee structure and therefore there is a “gap”). For those who are concerned enough about that, private health insurance is widely available (about 30% of Australians have it) and is also supported by tax incentives, etc etc.

It is not a perfect system, but i’d take it over yours any day…

Update: On the bright side, things are much worse in China.