It’s a sad reality that Australians in rural areas experience higher rates of health complications than their more urban counterparts. This is because, oftentimes, healthcare options are more difficult to access and are more remote. It’s important for rural Australians to have a strong understanding of local medical practices, insurance availability, and how to handle any health complications they may experience. If you’re living in a rural or remote part of Australia, here’s what you need to know about your care choices.

A Difficult Situation

One factor that greatly impacts rural Australians is a fairly obvious one: money. In rural Australia, outer regional areas suffer from lower employment rates. On top of that, residents generally have lower incomes which affect their ability to pay for healthcare services. Coupled with the fact that the majority of goods and services in rural areas tend to be more expensive than in metropolitan regions and you have a recipe for a great deal of healthcare inequality.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to rural Australia's economic straits. Remedying the income gaps which would allow for greater healthcare affordability isn’t as simple as “giving someone more money.” So while this factor is one that will likely complicate matters for remote residents for the foreseeable future, there are other difficulties in the rural healthcare situation that are equally pressing, such as its overall availability.

Access To Care

In general, the rural population of Australia tends to rely on private, community, and public practice options in the same way metropolitan residents do. However, the way rural citizens access said healthcare differs quite significantly. For example, the existing facilities in remote regions tend to be notably smaller. This is due, in part, to a general lack of infrastructure in these areas. Plus, there’s an obvious deficit of specialists so a majority of rural inhabitants rely heavily on general practitioners to receive care. These health workforce shortages mean that it’s significantly harder for residents to find care and access it. That’s not even mentioning the barriers that some residents have experienced when it comes to receiving care.

In many instances, people rely on their nearest emergency departments to receive care due to a lack of a local general practitioner. Not only does this tax emergency departments but it also exacerbates the previously mentioned economic difficulties. As a rule of thumb, emergency department care and treatment is more expensive than physician visits. Without adequate health insurance, already struggling residents may find themselves saddled with crippling levels of debt that can severely impact their well-being and overall quality of life.

It may seem like these problems are insurmountable. After all, when presented with a choice between driving a considerable distance to receive care, relying on an emergency department that may be cost-prohibitive, or “toughing it out,” too many rural Australians are choosing the latter. It certainly doesn’t help that navigating the healthcare marketplace can be obtuse at best and outright overwhelming on a bad day. That’s why it’s critical for individuals living in outer regional and remote areas to better understand their health insurance options and the funds available for care.

Finding Insurance, Finding Care

Health funds and private insurance options are natural choices for Australians living in rural areas. As an added bonus, you don’t even have to navigate a complex marketplace and a bevy of like-sounding options to find a policy that suits your specific healthcare needs. There are plenty of tools available to help you understand your choices. Compare health insurance options with iSelect. It’s an easy-to-use tool that makes taking out a policy that much easier. Living in a rural area shouldn’t equate to living without adequate healthcare.