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.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Avatar Angela Cukic says:

    We definitely need to ensure care is paramount. However, the cost of accommodation in aged care facilities are becoming unrealistic and it’s causing added stress for the elderly and their families. In most cases the elderly have to sell their homes to pay for their accommodation, as majority of nursing homes want you to buy, leaving families on the streets in particular if families have no assets. A better option would be if there are families who are in need of a place to live. they should be allowed to return home without the elderly being disadvantaged. There seems to be a huge gap between elderly who can afford to buy without selling and ones who have one property. We need to ensure nursing homes do not become big businesses and lose it’s real purpose in providing care for the elderly. Nursing homes are charging $200 per day for a room or for just a bed. $200 per day x 365 days equals $73,000 a year. The pension is around $350 per week, it’s obvious that the numbers are totally out of reach for the elderly with one asset. I hope the government changes this to make it fair for the disadvantaged, as a family home should not be sold to pay for accommodation. The solution is bring the cost up to say around $80 per day to cover care + accommodation for those who have one property. Thank you for your time.

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