Australia has three levels of government: federal, state/territory, and local government and a complex Primary Health Care (PHC) system with both public and private components.

The division of responsibility between federal/state governments, private and public systems, community and long term care settings plus the fact they are strewn across multiple jurisdictions poses a challenge for PHC in Australia.

In a nutshell…

  • The Australian Government introduced the Medicare system in 1984
  • All Australian Government funding for health services comes from taxation
  • A Medicare Levy is set at 1.5% of taxable earnings (for all but low income earners)
  • A 1% surcharge is levied on high income earners without private health insurance
  • Medicare covers general practice consultations (in many cases co‑payment is also charged by the practice)
  • The Australian Government funds the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) (which substantially covers the cost of medications)
  • Private health care financing is from out-of-pocket payments and optional private health insurance
  • Australia has no employer-based health insurance schemes
  • Medicare, PBS and Medicare Locals are funded by the Australian Government and hospitals are jointly funded and managed by the states
AFEA Primary Health Service Sectors in Australia
AFEA Pyramid graphic depicting the approximate ratio of health care sectors in Australia

Developments in 2015

Primary Health Networks (PHNs) were established on the 1st of July 2015. These primary health care organisations are responsible for improving patient outcomes in their geographical area by ensuring services across primary, community and specialist sectors align and work together in patients’ interests.

The GP workforce supply is a major issue in rural and remote areas and increasingly so in the urban fringes.

Both the Australian Government and individual states run health programs and initiatives which are implemented in primary care.

Critical Issue

The GP workforce supply is a major issue in rural and remote areas and increasingly so in the urban fringes.

In Conclusion

As in other countries, increasing demand due to the changing demographics of the population, ageing of the population and the increasing need for services to manage chronic health conditions, are driving system reforms.

We acknowledge Carers NSW for contributing content contained in this article.

Greatest challenge: governance, coordination and regulation.

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