So yesterday I test drove our medical insurance with a visit to the GP. Nothing exciting going on just thought it might be a good idea to get registered and I had a couple of questions. In the UK, as you’ll know, you register with a doctor whose catchment area you fall into, here its like “pick a doctors, any doctor” and they all cost pretty much the same. But they all cost… about $80-90 per appointment (and that’s just a standard appointment not a long one which can go up to $150 or more). I was ready for that (and was pretty sure that my fancy new $210 per month (PER MONTH) medical insurance covered the costs (and I have no excess- win!)). What I wasn’t ready for was the bargaining over the cost of medication. I take medication everyday and whilst I got a couple of months supply (as many as I was allowed) from the UK I knew I would need to get a prescription here for that. Turns out that that medication actually costs less here because it is so old its practically the price of smarties (which is kind of awesome as a person who needs it regularly!). I also wanted to ask about the pill (this is probably TMI but we’re all adults here… I have PCOs and apparently its good for evening out your hormones (as well as contraception)- which sounds like a win to someone whose body has apparently no capacity to regulate itself!!). Turns out the price of different pills ranges HUGELY. Now I used to live in Wales where prescriptions are free, yes free. Then I moved back to England at a time when contraception was free for under 25s and then I had other options that meant I didn’t have to pay either. So this came as a bit of a shock to me. Not that medication can be expensive, I used to work in a doctor’s surgery in the UK, but just how much they vary for what is, ostensibly, the same thing. I had my eye on a particular version of the pill which is apparently particularly good for PCOs, called Yaz. Turns out that is one of the newer, and hence more expensive ones. If I got your bog standard old pill its about $13.00 a pack (I think per pack…), for the ones that I want it is, of course, $65.00 a pack. I need a lie down. Lets presume I take one pack a month (which is kind of the idea here) that’s a solid $780.00 a year! Jeez! However, I was then in for another surprise- I figured I’d go for the better more expensive medication because it’s medication and I have medical insurance. So the doctor popped out of her office along the corridor and got me two packets of samples, samples, like I was trying out a new face cream or something! Madness. Anyways, I was thrilled to save myself (or my insurance company) the equivalent of $130 so I said ‘thank you very much’ and pottered happily out of the office and paid my $90 appointment fee.
I then went to the local branch of my medical insurance firm to find out how one goes about claiming back the costs. After a bit of wrangling with the guy who was serving me we worked it out (the type of insurance I am on is different from most because of my visa type… or something) and he agreed that the company would reimburse me for the same amount as medicare does (which is the Australian sort of equivalent to the NHS- a sort of government medical insurance)… this made me wonder what the point of having the insurance was. So I asked him to clarify if I could self-refer to a dietician (which is something the doctor had suggested to check up on the effects of my meds) and he pointed out that despite the expensiveness of my cover and that fact that it said it covered all hospital and all out of hospital care, this was not in fact the case. It didn’t cover: dentist, physio, nutrition, eye-care, prescriptions or… in fact anything that we could be covered by on medicare- FOR FREE (the UK has a reciprocal health agreement with Australia so this is not the case for all people on my kind of visa). I asked the medical insurance guy what on the earth I was paying the $210 a month for then and he kind of shrugged but told me if I wanted to add the bells and whistles to my policy then I could do so for a cool $600 per month. ARGH!
Long story short (sorry I lie, this isn’t short), I am planning on cancelling our insurance ASAP and putting the money in a separate bank account for us to use for any medical costs that might not be covered by Medicare. I know that as Brits we have free access to all hospital care (excepting things like IVF and organ transplants which I totally understand) and frankly I don’t think we are going to regularly spend more than $200 in a month on doctors visits (especially as the recovered costs for doctors visits is the same with medicare as with the insurance).