1. Well, I'm not quite sure what "preferred physicians" means, so I'm guessing that doesn't happen here. I can see any gp I want. You can only see a specialist if you're referred to one by your gp or another specialist, and they tend to refer to someone they know and trust. I haven't had any problems yet.
2. Are you penalised for opting out? No, I don't think so. Actually, I think it probably costs more for people to go with private insurance, but that makes sense because they're choosing to pay for swankier treatment. Privately insured people, for instance, can choose to see any specialist they want (instead of the one they're referred to) but I think it's a Clayton's choice, really, as you tend to be referred to the most suitable doctor for your needs anyway.
It may well be that I've just been lucky, though, and that other Australians will come along with an alternative viewpoint.
3. Can they deny or reduce your coverage because you have a pre-existing condition?
I *think* this is illegal. We do, however, have to wait a certain time (two years, I think) before they'll provide coverage for treating a pre-existing condition. This isn't a huge problem, though, as the public system is free -- it's not as if you'll get no treatment, as a person could in the US.
4. What happens if a medication is not on the "subsidy list"?
That is a huge problem! I lost years of my life being extremely sick and out of medical options while waiting for Rem... and then Humira... to come on the subsidised list.
I must stress, though, that if a medication and / or treatment is on the subsidised list and you meet the federally-set criteria for treatment, you'll be given that treatment. No bureaucrat will knock a qualified person back, as would happen in the US. (I've heard about
Americans being denied bone marrow transplants or proven but expensive life-saving treatments, just because the insurance companies want to save a bit of $)
5. What happens if you get sick and need care outside of your state or country?
Out of state? Not a problem. I can go to any public hospital I want. It can be hard to access gps in certain areas, just because there are doctor shortages in some places and they may have limited slots for new patients, but there are always hospitals to treat us.
Out of country? Australia has reciprocal arrangements with many countries - ie we'll treat their sick tourists for free if they treat ours. If I were going to a place like America, I'd have to take out private health insurance, or not go at all.
GDen, I don't know if British people are assigned to regional clinics, as you claim, but I can tell you that it *certainly* does NOT happen here. If I wanted to travel 200km or 1000km to see a gp, I could - nothing's stopping me, except time and travel costs
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