There are some valuable lessons Americans can learn from Australia's health care system and vice versa, according to a Macquarie University academic and expert in the field.


The Deputy Director of the Centre for Research and Social Inclusion and Head of the Department of Sociology, Associate Professor Michael Fine, will use a free screening of the Michael Moore film Sicko to illustrate what he calls America's 'double disaster' - high health costs resulting in poor access to care.

The screening of the film by Moore, an American filmmaker, author and liberal political commentator, highlights the failings of the American health care system, and coincides with considerable debate in the United States over plans for major health reform.

Fine, the convenor of a number of popular courses on care and human services at Macquarie, said he would use the screening to discuss the moral questions of making money out of someone's misery.

They have the best medicine in the world in the United States, but it's not available to all people, Fine said. The trouble with the system is that it's run very much like a business - as it's increased in size, the cost of care has also increased substantially. Costs are now extremely high, which has created the current situation where close to 20 per cent of the American population is without health care.

Fine said the flaws in Australia's system could mainly be attributed to having cash-strapped State governments responsible for hospitals. The good thing about our system is it has enabled coverage for the entire population - no matter who you are you have access to decent health care and if you don't it's likely to end up in the papers.

He said Americans could learn a very important lesson from the history of Australia's Medicare system. Although Medicare is very popular now, some doctors refused to co-operate with the public system when it was first introduced and there were massive disputes.

Trying to wait for perfect consensus was never going to work and I think Americans can learn from that, he said. There's a lot of scaremongering going on in America at the moment, but my advice would be to push on with reform, because in the end it will help make the system more viable over time.

Associate Professor Fine will preside over the screening of Sicko and then open up the floor to questions. He'll lead a discussion on Moore's portrayal of Health Maintenance Organisations. HMOs require people to pay a fixed amount of money to cover their health costs for a year, but some have been hit with lawsuits due to poor ethical behaviour.

The free screening will take place at the Macquarie University Theatre at 6:30pm on Sunday 18 October. Bookings are not required and drinks and snacks will be on sale in the foyer. Parking tickets may be purchased from vending machines located in the University's carparks.