Australia’s Health Care System is Hardly “Free”

Australia’s Health Care System is Hardly “Free”

During my recent vacation in Australia and New Zealand, my friends and I spent an enjoyable day in Melbourne while on a Tasmanian cruise.

Whenever I visit a big city for the first time on a trip, I always book a survey tour to take in all the key highlights. My friends and I signed up for a day-long bus tour of the city. We drove all over Melbourne, including stops at the solemn Shrine of Remembrance, which is a tribute to Australia’s veterans, and the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens, which includes the cottage where the legendary Captain Cook once lived.

As is usually the case on a bus tour, the tour guide shows off his or her pride for their town and tells stories about how wonderful a place it is to live.

On this bus tour, something the tour guide said struck me. While bragging about how wonderful Australia’s health system, he said that it was “completely free” for Australia’s residents. You don’t have to pay a cent for health care, he boasted, and shared a story of his wife’s recent operation.

Those who follow government health care know that this simply isn’t the case.

As the tour guide himself conceded, Australians actually pay a tax of 2 percent of their taxable income for their government health care scheme, which is called Medicare. That hardly sounds “free” to me.

After his single-payer sales pitch, I found myself muttering lots of criticisms under my breath on the drive back to our cruise ship. I told my friends about the horror stories that PRI’s Sally Pipes has shared about government health care in her native Canada, with government bureaucrats making health care decisions for patients, the rationing of care, and long wait times for basic health care.

Upon coming home and doing a little research, I found that this to be the case in Australia too. In fact, Sally wrote earlier this year in the Washington Times about a report showing that “more than 14,000 (Australia) patients waited over a year for elective surgery between 2015 and 2016 . . . (and) more than 7,000 either died waiting for a procedure or were unable to be contacted.”

So much for wonderful, free health care.

The reality of Australia’s health care system is a good reminder to us all about the perils California will surely face if we go down the path of government health care in the years ahead.

Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.

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