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Challenges for Medicare and universal health care in Australia since 2000
journal contributionposted on 2023-02-21, 03:48 authored by Mary Rose AngelesMary Rose Angeles, P Crosland, M Hensher
Objectives: To identify the financing and policy challenges for Medicare and universal health care in Australia, as well as opportunities for whole-of-system strengthening. Study design: Review of publications on Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and the universal health care system in Australia published 1 January 2000 – 14 August 2021 that reported quantitative or qualitative research or data analyses, and of opinion articles, debates, commentaries, editorials, perspectives, and news reports on the Australian health care system published 1 January 2015 – 14 August 2021. Program-, intervention- or provider-specific articles, and publications regarding groups not fully covered by Medicare (eg, asylum seekers, prisoners) were excluded. Data sources: MEDLINE Complete, the Health Policy Reference Centre, and Global Health databases (all via EBSCO); the Analysis & Policy Observatory, the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, the Australian Public Affairs Information Service, Google, Google Scholar, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) websites. Results: The problems covered by the 76 articles included in our review could be grouped under seven major themes: fragmentation of health care and lack of integrated health financing, access of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to health services and essential medications, reform proposals for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the burden of out-of-pocket costs, inequity, public subsidies for private health insurance, and other challenges for the Australian universal health care system. Conclusions: A number of challenges threaten the sustainability and equity of the universal health care system in Australia. As the piecemeal reforms of the past twenty years have been inadequate for meeting these challenges, more effective, coordinated approaches are needed to improve and secure the universality of public health care in Australia.