Okay, I have been incommunicado recently (partially due to the fact that I broke my phone). As a result, I do not have access to a lot of photos from recent adventures and I haven’t been exploring because I don’t have Google Maps and I am directionally challenged without it. So this week I won’t be covering personal experiences. Instead, I’d like to talk about some things that Austria, as a country, does really well. I’m not trying to bash on the US (although I admit that I am not particularly patriotic), but there are a few things here that we could really learn from. There has been some political turmoil in Austria as of late (involving the far right party) which merits its own discussion, but I am primarily interested in policies that have been around for a number of years so current events won’t make it into this post. Since there is a lot to talk about, I’ll be devoting two different blogs to discuss various policies. Next time I plan to discuss Austrian work-life balance, but today’s post is all about health care.
I would say my info is fairly credible (i.e. I used government sites for most of my statistics but also perused the Wikipedia pages for part of this).
Most of you probably have first hand experience navigating the bureaucratic circus that is the American healthcare system (or lack thereof). You probably do not need me to tell you that it is a nightmare, so I’ll skip that part and we can count that statement as a given assumption.
Unlike the US, Austria actually recognizes health care as a basic human right. This was proclaimed in 1956 with the passage of the General Social Insurance Law (ASVG). Everyone is automatically registered for health care upon employment and the coverage offered is expansive (unrestricted hopsital care, preventative check ups, etc). The insurance card also covers pensions and unemployment (as well as insurance for your dependants, should you have any). However, Austrian health care is a two tiered system. On one hand, there exists the publicly funded health care mandated by the ASVG and on the other hand there exists private health insurance which one may solely rely on or simply use in a supplementary manner.
The public system operates in a sort of decentralized manner. The federal government handles funding of the Austrian health care system and develops services that are implemented by the nine provinces of Austria which are in charge of managing and providing care in their respective regions. While this decentralized method of distributing power can be difficult (e.g. American Federalism) Austrian health care is spectacular and the system appears to work well. There are of course issues with the Austrian health care system such as health care access for the homeless, wait times for various procedures, etc. But it is nice to be living in a place that actually values the health of its citizens*. In the states, the concept of sustaining a life threatening injury produces anxiety about both survival and associated health care costs. It feels wrong that someone subjected to suffering should then be faced with significant financial burden and it is comforting to be in a place where this is not the case.
*In 2000, the World Health Organization released international rankings of health care systems by country. It is worth noting that the U.S. was ranked in 37th place while Austria came in 9th.
Though this post is devoid of photos and colorful anecdotes, I think discussing Austrian policies and politics is a good way to paint an accurate picture of the country itself. I do not want to spend four months here only to regard Vienna as a vacation destination and neglect to address what goes on in this city and country aside from the beautiful churches, cafes, and concert halls. While the touristy aspects of Austria have been fun to explore, writing more informational pieces on Austria is kind of my way of digging below the surface and better understanding the environment I am in.
That being said, my next post will be similarly informational, but I promise there will be photos of cake, so stay tuned!