Australia’s health system is one of the best in the world. It provides quality, safe and affordable health care for Australians and their families. It’s a key reason why we enjoy one of the longest life expectancies and highest quality of life in the world.
Medicare and the public hospital system provide free or low-cost access for all Australians to most of these health care services. Private health insurance gives Australians choice outside the public system. For private health care both in and out of hospital, Australians contribute towards the cost of health care.
Research and comparative data ranks Australia as the best or one of the leading healthcare systems in the world for its provision of care and healthcare outcomes.
- Mirror Mirror Report - #1 for healthcare outcomes (read the report here)
- World Health Organization – country healthcare profile (read the profile here)
Medicare has been Australia’s universal health care scheme since 1984 and is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, permanent residents in Australia, and people from countries with reciprocal agreements.
Medicare covers the full cost of public hospital services. It also covers some or all the costs of other health services. These can include services provided by GPs and medical specialists. They can also include physiotherapy, community nurses and basic dental services for children.
The other important part of Medicare is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) which makes the cost of some prescription medicines more affordable.
Many Australians have private health insurance cover either for hospital cover for treatment as a private patient and/or for general treatment for some non-medical health services not covered by Medicare.
The Australian Commonwealth Government provides a means-tested rebate to help Australians with the cost of purchasing private health insurance.
Primary healthcare is the cornerstone of the Australian healthcare system focusing on keeping people healthy through locally provided services.
In Australia, primary healthcare is coordinated by Primary Health Networks (PHNs). There are 31 PHNs across Australia that support community health activities, coordinate different parts of the health system, assess the health needs of their local area, and provide extra service such as after-hours care and health promotion as required.
Health System Challenges
Like any country, Australia’s healthcare system faces challenges and pressures for the future including:
- an ageing population and increasing demand on health services,
- increasing rates of chronic disease,
- costs of medical research and innovations,
- making the best use of emerging health technologies, and
- making better use of health data.
In 2016 – 17, Australia spent nearly $181 billion AUD on health from the following sources:
- 41% by the Australian Commonwealth Government
- 27% by state and territory governments
- 17% by individuals (for products and services not filly subsidised or reimbursed)
- 9% by private insurers
- 6% by non-government organisations
Health spending was about 10% of gross domestic product meaning that $1 in every $10 spent in Australia went to health. In addition, the Australian Government usually funds most of the spending for medical services and subsidised medicines. It also funds most of the $5.5 billion spent on health research in Australia in 2016–17.
The above information has been adapted from the Australian Department of Health. For more information, please refer to the Department’s website