Universal Health Services and Living With T1D in Australia

I’ve just returned from the chemist, where I picked up my latest prescription for insulin. And I received a very pleasant surprise.

But first, some background.

As most would be aware, there has been an ongoing ruckus in the USA about Universal Health Care, known by them as Obamacare. The rest of us outside the USA have been watching this ruckus go on for years now in mild, astounded bemusement as we hear them refer to Obamacare as socialism and something that must be got rid of, for the ongoing safety of America, democracy and the freedom of all that is good and right. Meanwhile we here in the non USA world just get on with living with our totalitarian system of health care, unaware that apparently we’re teetering on the abyss of political and civil oblivion.

I live with T1D and my health care doesn’t cost me a cent if I choose for it not to. And so far I’ve managed to survive for 46 years. Go figure.

Now, back to the chemist.

As I said, I’ve just picked up my latest batch of insulin. I was at the cash register to pay and the young lady checked it through and announced “That will be $5.60 thank-you.” Now normally I pay $37.50, so this was a surprise. The reason it was only $5.60 is because as a family, my wife and I have reached the safety net threshold for PBS medication – I’ll explain the terminology in just a moment.

Here in Australia we have a universal system called the PBS, standing for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, that covers all Australian citizens, regardless of income or insurance, for the medications that are covered by the scheme. And that covers many or most of the life saving medication that people need. Obviously this includes all insulins. And before you ask no, it does not mean we are restricted to a certain type of insulin. It covers virtually all types from all manufacturers.

Under normal conditions, that means that my 25 x 3ml vials of insulin, ie. 7500 units of insulin, costs me $37.50. BTW those T1’s reading this, it is Levemir from Novo Nordisk. However, another aspect of the PBS is that there is a safety net built into it for families and individuals who require more medication, such as people living with chronic illness. That safety net is currently $1486. Once you have spent that much in the year, all medication after that drops to the concession rate of $5.60.

So I just put 25 vials, ie. 7500 units, of insulin in the fridge and it cost me $5.60.

Now I know that many people in the USA will struggle to believe this, but it was only 30 minutes ago, so I’m not likely to have forgotten about it …. yet.

I hope that the USA can eventually join the rest of the civilised world and provide universal health care to their citizens.

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