News World Half of Australians are happy with health system: poll

Half of Australians are happy with health system: poll

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Almost 50 per cent of Australians think their health system works well, placing the nation mid-table in a survey of 11 countries.

But a Commonwealth Fund report, released on Thursday, shows Australia needs to do a lot better when it comes to dental care.

Some 48 per cent of people surveyed in 2013 believe the Australian health system works well and needs only minor changes.

That places Australia behind the United Kingdom (63 per cent), Switzerland (54 per cent) and the Netherlands (51 per cent), but ahead of six other countries including Germany and Canada (both 42 per cent).

The United States has the most people unhappy with their health system.

Just 25 per cent of survey respondents said the US system works well, while 48 per cent want fundamental change and 27 per cent argue a complete rebuild is required.

Australia has the second-highest level of patients spending more than $1000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses, with a quarter of the adult population in that category.

Only patients in the US – which lacks universal health cover – pay more, with 41 per cent forking out at least $1000 in 2013.

In the UK, only three per cent of patients were similarly out of pocket.

But the New York-based Commonwealth Fund notes Australians don’t feel those costs impact on access or affordability.

“That possibly reflects spending caps and other protections,” the report authors write.

Australia has an extended Medicare safety net. It means the government pays 80 per cent of out-of-pocket expenses once individuals or families hit a yearly threshold of $1220.

Some 14 per cent of Australians said they didn’t see a doctor when sick in 2013 because of the cost.

Again that’s mid-table, well below the US level (32 per cent), but less impressive than the four per cent figure in the UK and Sweden.

It’s an improvement on the 19 per cent figure in Australia back in 2010.

But when it comes to dental care, the picture is less rosy.

Some 29 per cent of Australian respondents skipped treatment on their teeth due to cost.

That’s towards the top of the 11-country table, along with New Zealand (32 per cent) and the US (33 per cent).

“This study’s findings indicate there is room to improve dental access in multiple countries,” the report states.

“This could include incorporating at least preventative dental care into core benefit designs.”

Other countries included in the survey were France and Norway.