I had my first experience with Australian health care this week.
Australia has a publicly funded universal health care system called Medicare, which provides affordable primary health care treatment for all Australian citizens and for permanent residents except for those on external territory of Norfolk Island. Additionally, Australia has signed the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with the U.K., Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta, and Italy. Visitors from these countries are entitled to some subsidized health services.
As an American tourist, I’m not eligible for Medicare. I can purchase private insurance, but haven’t done so yet. I haven’t had medical insurance in years and while I hesitated to see a doctor in the U.S. due to the exorbitant costs, even without medical insurance, the cost of visiting a doctor in Australia is very reasonable. There was a doctor I needed to see this week: an OB/GYN. It was time to restock my oral contraception.
Without medical insurance back in the U.S., I went to Planned Parenthood. For about $100, I had a check-up with Pap smear, a screening for potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous processes in the endocervical canal, and obtained a year’s worth of birth control pills at $25 a packet (that is, per month).
In Australia, for a mere $80, I could go to a general practitioner who could prescribe me the pills, but probably not perform a Pap smear though s/he could refer me to an OB/GYN for that and I would incur additional costs. Another option is Planned Parenthood.
Most Americans probably think that Planned Parenthood is an American organization, but Planned Parenthood is the U.S. affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which was formed in India in 1952 and today is a global non-governmental organization that promotes sexual and reproductive health and advocates the rights of individuals to make their own choices in family planning. Here in the Australian state of Victoria, its associate is Family Planning Victoria.
Going to Family Planning Victoria is much like going to Planned Parenthood in the U.S. It’s easy, convenient, and inexpensive. I paid a measly $10 for a yearly administration fee. The consultation itself was free and I obtained a prescription for a year’s worth of birth control that’s going to cost about $15 a packet. I opted not to have the Pap smear, which would have cost an additional $35, because women in Australia typically only get tested every two years instead of annually like in the U.S. where doctors perform Pap smears much more often than is necessary.
Family Planning Victoria has three clinics. The clinic in Box Hill welcomes everyone while the clinics in the CBD and Hopper’s Crossing are especially for people under 25. Being well over 25, I went to Box Hill, which is a fair distance from where I live, but for an annual visit at the fraction of the cost of a regular doctor’s visit, it’s well worth it.