Medicare and Issues in Australian Health Services

Introduction

In Australia, health care services are provided by both the government and the private institutions. Primary health care is considered to be the responsibility of the government as it is funded by the income tax levied on its citizens. In addition, the federal government bears a bigger percentage of about 50 in terms of contribution to the cost of health care services in public hospitals, which are channeled to the state and territorial government who are left with the task of contributing the remainder of the grant. Progressive taxation is the system used in levying funds for Medicare. In this system, high income earners pay more as compared to low income earners (Willis, Reynolds & Keleher, 2009, p.4).

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Health care system has had a huge impact on the overall community system. The Medicare’s main aim is to provide easy and equal accessibility to health care in public hospitals (Duckett, 2007, p. 3).

Medicare in Australia is made up of 2 sections; one of the sections is tasked with the responsibility of funding public hospitals while the other section is tasked in making direct payments for care to the medical practitioners. In general, the government pays about 85% of the total cost set by Medicare while the 15% and any additional charges (‘gap’) are settled by the patient. In addition to this, the federal government is also involved in the funding of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) (Willis, Reynolds & Keleher, 2009, p. 4). However, there are issues that have emerged in the course of providing these health services in the public hospitals. Some of these issues affect the provision of these health care services in Australia.

Interview summary

An interview was carried out to identify the main issues in the Australian health care system. Among the issues that emerged from that interview were; cost, health of the indigenous, preventable diseases and quality health care.

The subject interviewed were health practitioners in the health department of Australia. Several health practitioners who were interviewed generally identified the various issues but the common and major three issues that were frequently mentioned were quality health care, health of indigenous Australian and preventable diseases.

In the quality of health care the practitioners insisted on how the health care system can be improved by recruiting and training of many health practitioners. Motivation of these health practitioners was also suggested to have been a key factor in contributing to an effective and efficient health care system, thus improving the quality of health care system.

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In the issue of health of indigenous Australians the medical practitioners interviewed indicated that majority of these indigenous Australians are prone to the various numerous diseases due to their poor standard of living. The poor standard of living is attributed to the high cost of food prices thus making it impossible for the poor indigenous Australians to buy.

Some of the preventable diseases were mentioned to be a headache in the health care system. Among the diseases mentioned were tobacco related diseases that were said to contribute to most deaths annually. Overweight among Australian citizens was also suggested to be contributing the preventable diseases that affect the health care system. Obesity which is also the overweight in a person causes diseases like cancer and hypertension.

Main Issues in Australian Health Care System

Quality of care

Every citizen in Australia is entitled to quality health care. Understanding the meaning of quality health care is the key step to ensuring improvement of ones health. Indeed, the Australian government has over the years faced challenges in administering quality care to an extent of having to establish a taskforce that collaborates with other health care stakeholders to ensure quality health care is accessible to all (O’Sullivan and Butler, 2002, p. 104).

In modern time, the quality of health care can be measured by scientific methods. A quality measure is based on information attained from patient’s records or an operational procedure that is converted to a percentage that indicate how best providers are caring for their patients. Patients who are not entitled to the recommended health care are not included in the quality measurement. The main aim of quality measurements is to aid the patients in making an inform decision on health care choices (What is Health Care, 2004).

A lot of focus has been paid to the quality of health care in recent years. It is the understanding of researchers that providers, policies and patients affect the various factors that influence quality. Australia’s quality health care system is rated among the top health care system in the world for its service to its population. This has led to indicators of performance and reports of statistics on Australian health care services to be published by organizations and institutions (safety and quality of health care, 2010).

Indigenous health

According to studies undertaken, it has been noted that Aboriginal Australians are not as healthy as the rest of Australian population; indeed, indigenous Australians are among the unhealthiest people in the world (Eagar, Garrett and Lin, 2001, p. 33). Although there is goodwill in some indigenous stakeholders in bringing about systems of assessing local health service performance, no evidence of any existing system can be identified (Smylie, Anderson, Ratima, Crengle and Anderson, 2006, p. 2).

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Health is a key topic to the indigenous people of Australia. Studies conducted show that the infant mortality rate of indigenous Australians is 10-15 percent and that their life expectancy is short by 17 years as compared to the rest of the population; for instance, their “life expectancy is 59 years for males and 65 years for females” (Australia, 2009). According to the reports released by the Australian Bureau of statistics and the Council of Australian Government, it has been noted that lack of proper health and poor living conditions are some of the major factors that cause disparities in health (Australia: Reports show severe health disparities, 2005). In addition, high food prices in stores contribute to chronic Aboriginal child hunger which the government addresses by introducing a new indigenous health strategy that will regulate pricing. Moreover, colonization is said to have played a major role in causing spiritual harm due to the loss of traditional lands.

In addressing problems facing the indigenous community one should include the community in setting priorities for its rebuilding. In addition to this, social, economic, additional management and human infrastructure should also be incorporated in the rebuilding of the community (Duckett, 2007, p. 32)

Preventable diseases

It has been generally agreed that the Australian health care system should concentrate on prevention and better means of tackling chronic illness. This can be achieved by targeting indigenous communities which have greater needs. It is stated that, “preventive initiatives do not reach out effectively to those most at risk, and services for the chronic ill are concentrated in the acute care sector” (Armstrong, Gillespie, Leeder, Rubin and Russell, 2007). This should change for the betterment of efficient and effective health care..

The largest preventable cause of death in Australia is considered to be cigarette smoking; indeed, in Australia, in every 28 minutes there is a death that is tobacco related. For instance the 1998 data shows that more deaths in all age groups apart from 15-34 years were caused by tobacco as compared to alcohol or illicit drugs. It is estimated that over 4,000 deaths that are tobacco related are as a result of ischemic heart disease and moreover in the year 1998 it was approximated that 3.2 million adults were at risk of contracting chronic condition due to tobacco (Smoking-A leading cause of death, 2008)

Australia is rated as one of the developed country with a highest overweight proportion of citizens, with the number doubling in the last two decades. For instance, in the year 1995, 20-25% of children of age 7-15 years in Australia were considered as obese (Promoting Healthy Weight, 2009). There are various problems that are associated with obesity, some of them including: cardiovascular disease, cancer, musculo-skeletal and hypertension. However, majority of these diseases are preventable through healthy living. In studies conducted, it is eminent that the relationship between increased mortality and excessive body weight is clear (Promoting Healthy Weight, 2009)

HIV/AIDS is also one the preventable diseases facing Australia. Australia is a country known to have recognized and responded quickly to the disease. Non-government organizations have also played a major role in trying to eradicate the HIV/AIDS disease. The response to this disease is characterized by initiating measures of tackling it from the grassroots and not from the top-down. The government used advert in the media and laws which criminalized intentional transmission of HIV to tackle this disease.

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Conclusion

Australian health care system is considered as one of the most successful in the world, more so due to the efficient and effective services derived by the public. The system is comprised of both private and public sectors with a large percentage of the cost incurred in this system being footed by the government while the rest of the percentage is footed by the client. The funding by the government is comprised of 3 major subsidy schemes which include: Medicare, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate (The Australian Health System, 2010).

The portion of the government is financed by the citizens through taxation and cost-sharing fees paid to the health providers. The main role health care funding system is to provide health care to all citizens without focusing on their financial status or personal circumstances (The Australian Health System, 2010).

The issues that have been identified in Australian health services include: Quality of care in the health system, indigenous health and preventable diseases. These issues, in one way or another, affect the health care system, e.g. in terms of finance. Some of these issues can be avoided by; proper training of health practitioners, creating awareness of existing diseases and ways preventing them and lastly improving the living conditions of the indigenous citizens.

References

Armstrong, B. K., Gillespie, J. A., Leeder, S. R., Rubin, G. L. and Russell, L. M. (2007). Challenges in health and health care for Australia. Medical Journal of Australia. Web.

Australia. (2009). cultural survival. Web.

Australia: Reports show severe health disparities. (2005). cultural survival. Web.

Duckett, S.J. (2007). The Australian health care system. 3rd Edition. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Eagar, K., Garrett, P. and Lin, V. (2001). Health planning: Australian perspectives. Victoria: Allen & Unwin.

O’Sullivan, T. and Butler, M. (2002). Current issues in Irish health management: a comparative review. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration.

Promoting Healthy Weight. (2009). Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Web.

Safety and quality of health care. (2010). Australian institute of health and welfare. Web.

Smoking-A Leading Cause of Death. (2008). Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Web.

Smylie, J., Anderson, I., Ratima, M., Crengle, S. and Anderson, M. (2006). Indigenous health performance measurement systems in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Web.

The Australian Health System. (2010). Australian Government: Medicare Australia. Web.

What is Quality in Health Care? (2004). Wisconsin Hospital Association. Web.

Willis, R., Reynolds, L., & Keleher, H. (2009). Understanding the Australian health care system. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

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