01 Aug 2006 2:00 AM
|My experience to date:
1) I can get an appointment with a GP straight away (same day) if not fussy about who I see. Can wait a couple of days to see a particular doctor.
2) I can see my doctor at times that suit me - he is open Saturdays, 8am and into the early evening.
3) You get charged about $55 for an appointment, more for a long one. You get back bout $25 if memory serves me. To get the refund you need to go to your local medicare office with the receipt. Some doctors 'bulk bill' (no out of pocket expense, no need to visit Medicare office - i.e. just like the UK) for under 5s or pensionsers and I believe (but cannot swear) that most will perform routine child vaccinations with no out of pocket expense.
4) You pay directly for pharamceuticals and get no refund. Unlike the UK the charge is variable but reflects an agreed discounted price the govmt has negotiated with the drug company. You can bypass this and buy a generic (which may be cheaper and which your doc may have said is ok on the script anyway) or pay the private price (which will probably be higher so you'd not want to).
5) A&E is just like the UK with the same waits of hours rather than minutes. There is no charge. They now also generally run out of hours doctors surgeries next to A&E. You might get referred to them at triage if your complaint is trivial. The out of hours surgery will however charge the same as any other doctor - I imagine to stop them getting snowed under by people avoiding their GP's charges. The general rule is if your leg is hanging off you will receive quick, free and excellent care, if it is trivial or not life threatening you might wait a while.
6) If you need/use an amulance you will be sent a bill unless you have private medical cover to pick up the tab. It isn't unusual to pay an (optional) nominal sum to your school/sporting club for some basic (few hundred to few thousand) insurance cover for such an event.
7) Elective surgery is like the UK or even worse - you can wait a long time for an operation.
8) Consequently, many people take out private cover and the government encourages this through the tax system. Expect to pay about $230/month for a family for good (but not the top) hospital and extras cover. This is crap compared to BUPA or the like - expect a potentially very large out (could be a few thousand and will definitaley be in the hundreds) of pocket expense for any hospital procedure. The reason is there is an official fee for every procedure set by the government. In theory this is the cost of the operation and so it is what the health fund will pay out. Of course there is nothing to stop a doctor or hospital chargin more and (surprise!) they all do. Sometimes very significanlty more. Your cover will also go someway to denstistry , glasses, physio, speech therapy etc. Again there is a schedule fee that they won't cover more than (and again the providers all charge more than this) and there is a fairly low annual limit for most things. Also there is a long qualfying period for things like major dental work - i.e. you need to be a member for 6-12 months before they will cover you.
9) There is no such thing as an NHS dentist - it is all private. Root canal work can come to $2k plus. Private cover will go some way to covering this (after the qualifying period of 6-12 months) but you'll probably still shell out hundreds. Most health insurance will cover routine checkups, scale and polish with no out of pocket expense to you though. The moral of the story - if you are lucky enough to have an /NHS dentist get anything major done before leaving the UK to ensure you get though the initial qualifying period without incident.|