Australian Health Care

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The Australian population currently exceeds 20 million, with most of the population located primarily in the cities and along the coast; it also spreads to rural and remote indigenous communities. The Australian Government spends in excess of 66 billion dollars per year on health care, averaging out to approx $3,300 per person. (Medicare Australia 2009) This essay will discuss the structure of Australia’s healthcare system, known as Medicare. It will also discuss the role of the Government and Non-Government agencies, and Medicare’s strengths and weaknesses. It will also address the health and illness issues that aboriginal and people from overseas face, and also the significance of implementing best practice and quality management policies.

Medicare was introduced by the Australian Government in 1984 as the new health care system. It offers Australian residents free or low-cost medical, optometric and public hospital care, whilst also leaving the option of private health services open. These Medicare services are funded by the individuals’ financial contributions, which are calculated based on their income and made through a taxation levy known as the Medicare levy. (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2009) Medicare provides a variety of benefits, including: Consultation fees for doctors, including specialists; Tests and examinations by doctors, including x-rays and pathology tests; Eye tests performed by optometrists; most surgical procedures performed by doctors; some surgical procedures performed by dentist. (Medicare Australia 2009)

These benefits are payed in various ways. If the doctor or particular service ‘bulk bills’, then all that is required is a signature from the patient, so the service can then bill Medicare directly. If the doctor or service charges a certain fee, you are required to pay that account and then claim the benefit from Medicare. Medicare usually pays for the full Schedule fee for GP services; 85 per cent of the Schedule fee for other out-of-hospital services and 75 per cent of the Schedule Fee for in-hospital services. The Schedule fee is the fee for service set by the Australian Government; it is not the doctor’s fee. (Medicare Australia 2009) Medicare Australia also pays for pharmaceutical benefits under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme; this provides people with a lower cost for drugs that are on an agreed list of prescription drugs. This makes it more affordable for people who are on many different medications, for long term needs. (Medicare Australia 2009) Medicare does not cover things such as: costs for private patients; dental examinations and treatment; ambulance costs; home nursing; physiotherapy, occupational therapy, eye therapy, chiropractic services, podiatry or psychology; acupuncture; glasses and contact lenses; hearing aids etc; prostheses; medicines that are not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme; medical and hospital costs that occur whilst overseas; cosmetic surgery; and also examinations for life insurance or superannuation. (Medicare Australia 2009)

Sixty-seven percent of the public expenditure on health is provided by the Australian Government, and the state and local Governments provide the rest. The Australian Government funds medical services and pharmaceuticals and provides financial assistance to public hospitals, aged care facilities and aged home and community care. It also is responsible for funding health research and provides support and training for health professionals and tertiary students. (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2009) The State and territory governments are responsible for the funding of direct health services, including acute and psychiatric hospital services. It also provides funding for community and public health services such as, school health, dental health, maternal and child health, occupational health, disease control activities and also a variety of health inspection functions....
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