Australian Health Fund Coalition Speaks out Against Medicare

In 1984, Australia saw the introduction of its federally funded health insurance system. Medicare was designed as a protective system for universal access to health care, irrespective of the beneficiaries’ income level, age, gender, or location. Nearly two decades later, however, it seems like the system has failed – or at least that’s what a recently formed alliance of private health funds seems to be saying. The representatives of the private system claim that Medicare is doing nothing to improve the conditions for access. What is more, they are actually claiming that the public system, as it stands today, is actually creating an ever deeper gap between Australia’s rich and its poor. The group of private health insurers is citing numerous issues with Medicare. Some of the most concerning involve universal accessibility, the increased costs that patients need to support out of their own pockets, as well as a general lack of access to resources, which public hospitals face. They are also bringing into the debate the often cited problem of endless waiting lists for access to health care in public facilities.

Medicare was launched with the declared mission to improve the standards of medical care in Australia. It aimed to provide higher quality services to one and all; to this end, the system takes care of all the costs that patients produce, when seeking medical care in public hospitals. Both general practitioners and specialized doctors receive subsidies through this system. However, according to the recently released report by the health fund group, the actual situation in the field couldn’t be further from those ideals: patients that are financially well-off receive far better medical care than those who can’t afford it. According to the same report, there is no stable picture of general practitioners bulk billing rate, as they differ widely from one area of the country to another. In some parts of Australia, 49 per cent of GPs bulk bill, while in others the ratio goes up to 96 per cent. To boot, gap fees are also on the up and up, having gone up by $16.5 from 2007 to 2012 (namely from $30 to $46.50).

The problem with waiting lists is also worth taking into consideration. Publicly insured patients in some areas of the country need to sit out long waiting times in order to gain access to elective surgery. Although it’s called ‘elective’, this class of interventions includes important operations, such as hip and knee replacements. The same survey cited above has found that in financially disadvantaged areas, the average waiting time is longer by 13 days than in more economically stable parts of Australia.

The report goes on to list an ample array of inequities. Some affect people that suffer from chronic illnesses, while others are clearly disadvantageous toward those living in remote, or rural areas. The report’s authors are asking leaders on both sides of the political echelon to reconsider their current stance on Medicare and to implement changes within the system. Funds are being wasted in some areas of the country, according to the report – while in others chronic sufferers are being deprived of access to appropriate care, because of a lack of sustainable funding. At the same time, the report addresses the reality of current costs incurred by the average Australian. The figure stands at $1,070 per capita, which translates into $4,000 per the average household. Private health insurance is also taken in tow: the average cost stands at $3,000 per premium per year for private family health insurance. The addition of major out of pocket costs makes health care far from affordable down under. And if the politicians fail to reform Medicare – the report argues – the population is only going to be faced with more inequality, as time progresses.

Do businesses have the right to not offer same sex marriage medical coverage?

In 1996, federal laws were enacted that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  These laws had puritan underpinnings and were primarily designed with regard to the provision of federal benefit programs.  These federal laws did not embroil themselves in the individual states’ ability to govern themselves and dole out state-level benefits as they saw fit.

Same sex marriage is currently legal in 12 states and Washington, D.C. A recent study was conducted at a Washington college was in favor of same sex marriage benefits.  As with medical marijuana, despite its legality on a state level, same sex marriage is still a taboo topic on a federal level due to the Defense of Marriage Act (the “one man, one woman” law).  Many LGBT couples got married in a state that legally recognizes and accepts same sex marriage even though they are permanent residents in a state that does not.  This is the primary crux of the medical benefit situation.  Since the couple’s home state doesn’t acknowledge that the marriage is legally valid or binding it does not have to offer spousal benefits to a person it does not consider to be a spouse.

There is really no other way to make the issue more crystal clear.  If you live and work in a state that does not acknowledge the validity of same sex marriages, you can’t expect your employer to provide you with spousal benefits enjoyed by what that state recognizes as a legally married couple.  That’s like traveling to another planet and expecting the alien inhabitants to speak English.

However, a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court has given many LGBT married couples hope in their battle to obtain rights for their partners and spouses.  But don’t get your hopes up for medical benefits just yet…there’s more to the Supreme Court ruling than just a blanket disavowal of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Section 2 of the DOMA was not challenged in the Supreme Court case (United States v Windsor) and was therefore not at issue in the case, so no opinion, ruling, or decision was made on that part of the federal law.  Section 2 states that individual states are left to their own devices regarding whether or not they will choose to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states.

Furthermore, Section 3 of the DOMA, which was at issue is the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.  This definition was outlined for federal purposes and affects only those federal mandates, policies, and provisions where marital status is addressed as a matter of federal law.  Again, this does not preclude the individual states from enacting laws prohibiting or permitting same sex marriage and the permissibility of benefits to same sex spouses.  Essentially, the only thing the Supreme Court’s ruling really did was change the Section 3 provision to invalidate the “one man and one woman” specification.

The Supreme Court’s ruling isn’t as earth-shattering as it initially seems.  It doesn’t affect whether or not states have to recognize and validate same sex marriages performed in other states, and it doesn’t affect whether or not individual states can permit or prohibit granting state-level benefits, including company-offered medical benefits, to same sex spouses.  What the ruling does, however, is change the game for federal benefits by nullifying the heterosexual wording of the DOMA.

How does Healthy Living Prevent Depression and Other Mental Illnesses?

Your boss is yelling at you.  Your kids are going crazy.  Your head is aching.  You haven’t slept well in what feels like days and your bank balance is on alert for low funds.

The stress of life is real.

Stress happens to everyone at some point and many times, it can eat at the very core of you, whether you realize it or not.  Stress – especially persistent stress that continues to weigh on you day after day – can have true adverse health effects including cognitive impairment, weakened immune systems, increased weight, and hormonal or sugar imbalances.  In addition, stress can be felt by others around you, even your kids.

As humans, we’re only able to work so hard before our bodies demand a break.   But did you know that when you’re facing stress or even burnout, healthy living can be a real asset? It allows you to stay strong and combat depression or the mental uneasiness that happens as a result of the demands you’re under. While depression and other mental illnesses can many times be unpreventable, there are some ways to help prevent depressed moods, including health insurance or private health cover which provides you with regular checkups that can detect early warning signs for depression or mental health issues.

However, health living, including proper diet, exercise, and focusing on taking regular vacations and time to relax, are great ways to help avoid depression from taking hold. Take a step back and look at how you can start living a healthier lifestyle. What does living healthier look like to you?  Does it mean cutting back on fatty, greasy snacks or dinners?  Does it mean exercising more? Or does it mean simply carving more time out of the day for yourself to relax and find time for activities that you enjoy?

Do things outside of the office or home that energize you and help you recharge.   Make sure you take regular vacations, start incorporating lots of fruits and vegetables into your diet (natural energy boosters), and dig deep to determine what triggers stress or burnout in your life.

Take time for yourself. Your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing is worth it!

Fecal Transplants – Eat Shit for Life

If you are suffering from a bacterial infection, it makes sense that you would look to antibiotics, prescribed medicines, a healthy diet and rest in order to achieve better health and recover completely. At least, that seems to be the way a usual doctor’s visit goes.

What you might not expect, however, is that a little known, but steadily-growing alternative treatment – fecal (faecal) transplant could be the simplest cure of all. In case you’re reading that again, yes – it really does read fecal transplant, a yes, it means what you think it does!

Amazingly, healthy fecal matter implanted in an unhealthy person can wipe out dangerous and even life-threatening bacterial infections, but the procedure is not getting the recognition that it deserves. Even if you are squeamish, reading more about fecal bacteriotherapy is a fascinating glimpse into a field of medicine that doesn’t get much time in the spotlight.

How Does Fecal Bacteriotherapy Work?

One of the most interesting things about fecal transplants is how relatively simple of a procedure it really is. Just like the name suggests, fecal matter from a healthy individual is placed into the body of an unhealthy individual. This fecal matter is usually diluted to a specific concentration and then implanted in the unhealthy patient through a procedure almost identical to a colonoscopy. Other means of transplanting the fecal matter can sometimes also include a tube through the nasal passage.

Because of how quick and nearly pain-free the treatment is, patients are in and out of the hospital in a few hours, and it is almost always an outpatient therapy where no real downtime or recovery is required. In fact, many people are back at work the day following the procedure.

What are the Medical Benefits of a Fecal Transplant?

For many patients with bacterial infections or digestive problems, antibiotics only further upset the system and can lead to problems like weight loss, diarrhoea and anaemia. The fecal matter used in the transplant is full of healthy bacteria, and that bacterium is able to quickly take over in the colon. In many cases, having healthy bacteria in the colon is enough to wipe out any infection and reduce or completely eliminate symptoms in just a few days or weeks.

What Infections Can It Cure?

Obviously, a fecal transplant won’t work for just any kind of infection. It has had the most success with a specific bacterial infection called Clostridium difficile, or C. diff. It has also proved successful, although slightly less so, in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis.

Gastroenterologists around the world are interested to learn how fecal transplants might be able to improve the digestive health of less ailing patients. There is the potential for this procedure to help reduce rates of obesity and even eliminate constipation for some patients.

Who is a Candidate for the Treatment?

Currently, there are thousands of people who might be the perfect candidate for the procedure. If you are suffering from Clostridium difficile and you have not has success with prescribed antibiotics, then a fecal transplant might be a simple way to end your symptoms of bacterial infection once and for all.

Other individuals with intestinal infections, especially those who are suffering from diarrhoea or constipation, might want to uncover if this treatment could benefit their health.

Overcoming the Stigma

Unfortunately, Fecal bacteriotherapy objections are subject to the obvious perception behind the, er, matter! The complications aren’t actually connected to the success of the procedure, and more than 90 percent of patients are able to completely recover. Instead, the problems revolve around the regulations of the treatment and the fact that fecal matter is, well, icky. Patients are wary of treatments that involve ingesting faeces, and it is nearly impossible to regulate the stool needed for the transplant. Since this is also a relatively new treatment, not all health insurance providers will cover the costs.

It might sound like a weird treatment from a science fiction novel, but fecal transplants have the potential to save the thousands of people around the world who die from C. diff infections each year. Doctors are investigating the procedure, and it will almost certainly be a common medical procedure in the next decade.