Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Similarities and Differences Between the Health Systems in Australia & USA

February 15, 2021 · 1 Comment · Health Care Systems, Uncategorized

           Australia and the United States are two very different countries. They are far away from each other, have contrasting fauna and flora, differ immensely by population, and have vastly different healthcare systems. The United States has a population of 331 million people, compared to Australia’s population of 25.5 million people.


According to the United States Census for 2018, 8.5% of Americans, or roughly 28 million people, did not have health insurance for that year. When it comes to health services, each of these countries offer great medical services as well as very advanced technology to treat communicable and non-communicable diseases. With that in mind, they both have very different healthcare systems. I have lived more than a decade in both, and my experience in each country has definitely opened my eyes to how they and the world operate.

Australia has a national public health insurance scheme in which taxpayers pay an estimate of 2.0% tax levy to Medicare. The United States has a pluralistic health care delivery system provided by many distinct organisations.

This includes private health insurance as well as public health coverage, such as Medicare and Medicaid.  In this blog, I want to talk about the similarities and differences between the health system of these two countries.       

        Australia has been able to provide Medicare, which is safe and affordable, for every person that is resident of the country. The Medicare program in Australia has been designed with the cooperation of the federal, state, and local government. The Federal and the State Government of the United States provides Medicare for retirees and Medicaid for people of low income, and employers provide private health insurance to Americans.  Australians have an abundant number of primary health physicians who are easily accessible for children to receive regular check-ups as well as all the necessary vaccines.  American residents can visit a general physician, or they can directly visit a specialist of their choice. The Medicaid program allows patients to visit the general practitioner first. In Australia as well as in the United States there are a number of hospitals that are private and public throughout the metropolitan areas. Both countries have in urban areas a number of doctor clinics for wellness programs for children to get their regular vaccines. Australian women have prenatal and postnatal care available at their local clinic, or they can visit the hospital where they plan to deliver their babies. American women have access to prenatal and postnatal care with a doctor of their choice or regular clinic if they have Medicaid.

Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme which is run by the Australian government provides affordable medicine coverage to all Australians who have Medicare. This scheme subsidises a number of approved medications and allows anyone the ability to afford their medication regardless of its actual cost. The United States has the best pharmaceutical research in the world with advanced technology. Therefore, Americans have access to the latest medical inventions and pharmaceutical discoveries.

Since everyone has Medicare, Australian’s are required to go on a waitlist for specialist visits. When a person needs to see a specialist, he or she may sit on a waiting list for about 3 months to 2 years depending on the problem and the specialist type. In contrast to the Australian Medicare program, health insurance in America is not provided equally to all.

The unemployed and people below the poverty line can only get access to government programs. The rest of the population can access better programs with large choices of healthcare providers, specific medical exams, hospitals, and other facilities. Another major hurdle with the medical system in Australia is that the outback of Australia has less access to medical facilities. Therefore, aboriginals may have less opportunities of preventative care. Doctors visit rural areas only periodically in intervals of three months to provide wellness programs. In the United States, the big issue is Racial inequality in terms of medical coverage. Minority groups have less access to private health insurance. They have less opportunities to visit doctors of their choice if they have Medicaid.

The Australian health care system fails to provide coverage for dental and vision, which are considered optional to the Medicare program. In America the dental and vision health coverage is provided by private insurance but it is very expensive. Through the pharmaceutical benefit scheme, medications can be price capped, but newest medications are not readily available to all Australians. American’s pay a lot for their medicine, there is not a cap system and pharmaceutical companies can price their medicines more freely.

Another weakness in theUnited States health system, is the cost of insurance, high premiums, out of pocket expenses, and co-pays are all very high. There are not

regulations to cap or to reform the way insurance companies charge and calculate their fees. Federal and local regulations are not coordinated well in supporting and monitoring the quality, cost, and effectiveness of health services. Federal and local government are not monitoring charges and services equally; and there is not control on who can charge one price or the other.

        From my personal experience with both countries, I conclude that Australia’s Health system is better. There is a better coordination between Federal, State and Territory, and local government. The Australian government has improved the standard of living by allocating more resources to the medical system per capita. They monitor the efficiency of each program at state level. They are more inclusive with minority groups such as aboriginals and pacific islanders, because they provide them with specific programs exclusive to their needs. They also make an effort to reach rural areas of the country with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, a program in which a doctor visits rural area via airplane to give preventative and wellness care to people in remote areas of the country. The Australian Medicare program is comprehensively and universally accessible throughout the country regardless of the geographical area in which a person lives. In this way, most of its citizens have fair and equal access to affordable healthcare services, and medicine thus, keep them healthy and economically stable.


One Comment

  • mwright106

    Hi, such an informative blog. I was unaware of the Austrailia provision for healthcare. I was most intrigued by the “flying Doctor Services” because, in so many countries, rural areas are left behind, especially with health, which negatively affects their health outcome. However, how can Australia’s Medicare improve access to care for the unemployed and individuals below the poverty line?

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