The federal government has recognised that bloody bastard known as “Medicare” is dogshit and wants to give the system a ‘yuge overhaul. About time, I say.
Health Minister Mark Butler told reporters on Monday that his government had “no higher priority than strengthening Medicare” and making healthcare more accessible for Australians.
“It’s never been harder to see a general practitioner or a doctor out in the community than it is right now,” he said.
“For a standard GP consult, for the first time in the history of Medicare, the average gap fee is now more than the Medicare rebate fee itself.
“What this means is that too many Australians simply can’t get the care that they need, when and where they need it out in the community.”
The other issue is that folks struggle to get timely appointments with their GPs. I will never forget when I had tonsillitis so hectic that I couldn’t swallow and the medical receptionist told me the next available appointment was in a month’s time, so I just burst into tears.
But alas, I digress. Because GP appointments are either too expensive or simply nonexistent, Butler said people are heading to hospital emergency departments for treatment. As a result, this puts more pressure on “an already very, very stressed hospital system”.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the goal is to “fix primary health care”, which will in turn give the hospital system a bit of a breather.
“The big thing we are looking at is how do you take pressure off the system, and we are doing that — talking to the AMA, talking to the Royal Australian College of GPs, talking with experts because we want to make sure that [the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce] is listened to,” he told Sunrise.
The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce does exactly what it says on the tin — it thinks of ways to improve the provision of primary healthcare. It’ll be releasing its recommendations via a meaty report in two shakes of a lamb’s tail (or within a few weeks).
“It will guide the decisions that our Government needs to take in the May budget to finalise the investment of that strengthening Medicare fund that was a clear commitment to the Australian people at the last election,” Butler said.
So, what does all of this mean for you? At this stage, it’s not super clear what the brainiacs in the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce want to roll out.
According to The Australian, however, the Labor government is considering some sort of “blended” funding system. This will mean deviating from the purely fee-for-service model (when healthcare providers charge you for each service or procedure they dish out) that we’re currently working with.
Within this new-and-improved system, nurses and allied health practitioners (so, your pharmacist, physios, occupational therapists and the like) would also work together to deliver complex care, which is provided to folks who may need specialist support.
The full Medicare shakeup won’t be revealed under the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce drops its report in a few weeks. I think I speak for everyone when I say I hope Australia’s healthcare system *actually* becomes more accessible for folks — especially for people living with a disability and those with chronic and mental illness.