Breaking Bad is the story of Walter White, a struggling high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at the beginning of the series. He turns to a life of crime, producing and selling methamphetamine, in order to secure his family's financial future before he dies.
I've not seen Breaking Bad and I'm not particularly sure that I'm going to but I've pretty well much come to the conclusion that the issues surrounding this TV series simply would not happen in Australia for two main reasons:
Firstly, I assume Mr White is forced to go into a life of crime because of the crippling costs of treatment of his inoperable lung cancer. I did a quick look to find out how much health care premiums would cost me had I been living in the United States and came to the glorious figure of A$8,553 through Kaiser Permanente as opposed to just A$2281 from NIB here in Australia. Never mind the fact that it's perfectly possible to survive quite happily without private health insurance in Australia because of the universal single payer public health care system of Medicare.
Even if you take the most conservative estimates, roughly 1.7 million people per year file for bankruptcy because of default on accumulated medical bills. Roughly 25 million people in the United State will not even fill basic things like prescriptions because the price is too high. I can of course fully understand the underlying premise here.
Had Mr White been living in Australia, his inoperable lung cancer would have been seen to by the public hospital system. Not only would this have been cheaper than in the United States but a lot of end user expenses would have been free of charge to him and picked up via the universal payer, Medicare.
Secondly, if Mr White had been prescribed some sort of management drugs or other course of action, then they would have been cheaper per unit and if he'd reached the PBS safety net threshold of $1390.60 then every single drug or treatment would have cost $5.90 thereafter. The price of prescription medicines and treatment required for him to manage and live with his inoperable lung cancer would have been far cheaper. Further to this, he more than likely would also be seeing his GP on a semi-regular basis which would have further been an advantage to his conditions.
Basically, it would have been incredibly difficult for Walter White to even enter the economic circumstances which lead him to consider his life of crime in Australia unless he was really determined to do so.
It's a sad indictment on America's health care system that this is used as the premise for a high rating television show and I think bordering on treasonous that its currently one of the underlying reasons why the US Congress is threatening a shutdown of non-essential government services as I write this.
I think that Breaking Bad simply would not have happened in Australia and I seriously hope that the conditions which would cause it to, also never happen.