One of the reasons we’ve delayed our departure from Australia is because of this pending baby. Australia, with its universal healthcare system, is a great place to have a baby. By the time I walk out of hospital holding Baby D, my total pregnancy bill will be $0.*

Basically, all permanent residents of Australia are covered under Medicare), which is funded by a 1.5% levy on our income. High-income earners (those over $70,000 p.a.) are charged an additional 1% if they do not take our private health insurance. (Private health insurance cover is reimbursed by the government at a rate of 30%.)

I have a friend who elected to birth (twice) in a private hospital, although she did not have private health insurance. L chose her obstetrician and was attended to as if she was a private healthcare patient. Her doctor visits, ultrasounds, medical tests and medical bill was partially covered by Medicare. L initially paid about $6500 to have her baby, but Medicare reimbursed a percentage of the costs until she was only out-of-pocket about $2000.

The Medicare system covers visits to midwives, doctors, a large percentage of the fees charged by specialists, and total hospital care at a public hospital. For things like elective surgery, there’s a waiting list at these public hospitals, but emergency care is always covered.

As I have low-risk pregnancies, I require very little ante-natal care. I’ve only had one ultrasound and half a dozen doctor visits, plus two with an obstetrician. (I did turn down the option for two other ultrasounds, as I thought they were unnecessary.) My blood has been taken a couple of times for testing, and the results are always shared between the hospital where I’m booked in and my family doctor. Again, these tests cost me nothing.

Even those mothers with high-risk pregnancies can receive all their care — ultrasounds, blood tests, hospital stays and doctors appointments — for free. Maternity facilities are very good in my part of Australia, and not all Australians can access the same level of medical care without travelling long distances.

I’m grateful that at this time I can just “turn up” and have the baby without having to think about expenses or insurance. It’s great to be Australian!

*That’s not really true, I did pay for an extra, non-diagnostic ultrasound to discover what gender D was, but that’s “another story”:http://www.sparklingadventures.com/index.php?id=645.