Free health care, but not for teeth.

Well the conversation to the GP went like this:

Me: “Can I book an appointment to see the GP?”

Receptionist: “Are you registered here?”

Me: “No”

Receptionist: “That will be NZD$84…. Which country are you from?”

Me: “I’m actually a visitor from abroad so I’m not sure of the procedures here”

Receptionist: “What country are you from?”

Me: “UK”

Receptionist: “Wait a minute, please”

[On hold music ~~~~]

Receptionist: “Actually it will be NZD91, is this ok?”

Me: [Flabbergasted – hahahahahaha……] “Well I still need to see the GP so please go ahead”

Receptionist: “We have an appointment available at 11?”

Me: [Shell shocked as its currently 09.02am] “yes that’ll fine”

Receptionist: “Great, your appointment is with Dr […] We will see you then

OK, I have never had a GP appointment so quickly in my life! Granted I don’t need to visit the good Doc but within 2 hours and its not a standby or cancellation appointment, but at such a costly no wonder an appointment was readily available! Over time I learnt that all medical services are just as costly, including paying for prescription medication. Though citizens can apply for subsidies they inevitably still have to pay something. If citizens have medical insurance, even that has clauses like first counselling session is free, the next are charged. I mean, what if that person needed counselling sessions for their mental health, they would go bankrupt trying to help them self. So nothing makes you more grateful then a fresh slapping reminder how lucky I am to be living in a country where we have a free health system. Sure it has its problems but essentially everyone is entitled to free services.

Continuing down the vain of understanding the NZ economy, I find out that NZ is actually the third freest country in the world. Singapore is second while Hong Kong is first. UK is eighth, Canada is ninth and the USA is eighteenth.

What essentially is a free economy? In the most simplistic way (and economists don’t shoot me, just trying to keep it simple here) its a market place where it is free from intervention mostly from the Government and it comes in the form of subsidies. Think farming subsidies or export goods are taxed at higher rates to make local goods cheaper to purchase and so more attractive to the local consumer. This is the basic idea of a free economy but as we all experience, no economy is actually completely free. Even Andrew Carnegie who wrote that economies should be free from Government intervention demanded subsidies from the Government for his own companies and performed what is now known as insider trading to become an extremely rich man. He also became well known after his multi billion profit for his philanthropy. Hypocrisy much, I’ll leave that question with you!

So a few months back, when I arrived, I noted at why the goods particularly food is so expensive here in NZ. That and why the taste of milk is … Quite frankly awful for a country well populated with cows. I asked a few of the locals and they were telling me that all the good products are actually exported and especially dairy products, they’re all exported because that’s where they earn the money. So companies don’t care about the domestic market and so charge the same price for the product regardless whether its for domestic sale or export. What makes it worse is that domestic sale goods are not even of good quality because all of that is exported. Those were their words. At the time I was surprised at the reply, I didn’t expect that. To me it makes sense that a Government helps their own country and hence their own people first, surely? “That doesn’t make sense, why do the local people pay the same price as the exporter?” OK, so a free economy ranking is calculated on multiple things over a category of subjects including labour laws and tax rates and woo-weeee ~~. In comparison they pay much roughly 5-15% less in taxes (obviously depending on which category e.g. Income tax or goods sale tax (GST) or aka in the UK as VAT). But it certainly appears less across the board.

So I guess the trade off can be seen as, pay more taxes and receive more free public services. Of course this idea touches on socialism and more towards a utopian outlook on life where everyone must contribute equally for the system to be fair, but how often are things fair? Look at what happened with the stock market. Absurd greed completely took the p*ss out of everyone in the entire world as it drove the entire world’s economies all to recession and even depression. Absurd because as a normal person, I can’t comprehend why you would take so much at the detriment of millions of others. (Talk about Game Theory in action!)

Anyway, to try end this on a more positive note. This whole living abroad thingy, though I’ve always advocated that people should travel to not only understand but appreciate what you have in life, has made even more grateful for NHS Scotland. Free prescription. Free eye exams. Free education up to first year of Uni. (How sustainable this will be in the long term is sooooo a different post though!) But regardless of NZ, UK or even HK (where you also have to pay for all your medical expenses with some subsidies for the select groups of citizens), none of these countries actually include Dentistry as a free service. Are teeth not important?

—- Geek, out

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