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Analysis and Comment (33)

The Dutch like their health system, even though they contribute to it from their own pockets. The Dutch like their health system, even though they contribute to it from their own pockets. Bohbeh/Shuttersock

Creating a better health system: lessons from the Netherlands

Australia has a relatively strong health system by international standards, but it needs a makeover. To generate fresh ideas, The Conversation is profiling five international health systems that have important…
In the UK, surgeries are awarded points and additional funding for keeping patients healthy. In the UK, surgeries are awarded points and additional funding for keeping patients healthy. emanueletudisco photography/Flickr

Creating a better health system: lessons from England

Australia has a relatively strong health system by international standards, but it needs a makeover. To generate fresh ideas, The Conversation is profiling five international health systems that have important…
If the Abbott government is clearing the way for a bold reform agenda, the shape of the new direction remains shrouded in mystery. If the Abbott government is clearing the way for a bold reform agenda, the shape of the new direction remains shrouded in mystery. AAP/Dan Peled

Abbott government health policy needs a sharper focus

The Coalition entered the 2013 federal election without a health policy. After a year in government, it remains without one. While there has been activity in the health arena, there’s been little coherent…
The AMA proposal would wipe out 97% of the government’s $3.5bn savings. The AMA proposal would wipe out 97% of the government’s $3.5bn savings. Newzulu/AAP

AMA co-pay plan: protecting the poor and GPs' bottom line

Bulk billing without restrictions has been a feature of the Australian health system since the introduction of Medicare in 1984. It is particularly important in general practice, as it means any Australian…
As the queue grows, small increases in waiting times soon turn into dramatic spikes. As the queue grows, small increases in waiting times soon turn into dramatic spikes. Fotoluminate LLC/Shutterstock

GP co-payment would increase emergency department wait times

The introduction of a GP co-payment could see average emergency department visits increase by between six minutes and almost three hours, new modelling shows, as more patients opt for free hospital care…
The new Extended Medicare Safety Net will no longer provide patients with protection against high medical costs. The new Extended Medicare Safety Net will no longer provide patients with protection against high medical costs. flickr:tanakawho

A new, simpler Medicare safety net… but with holes

Buried in the details of the health budget are some changes to Medicare not widely discussed in the last 36 hours. Just as important as the introduction of co-payments for medicines and GP visits are changes…
It doesn’t matter how you count it, Tony Shepherd’s claim that Australians see doctors 11 times a year just doesn’t add up. It doesn’t matter how you count it, Tony Shepherd’s claim that Australians see doctors 11 times a year just doesn’t add up. AAP/Lukas Coch

FactCheck: does the average Australian go to the doctor 11 times a year?

All Australians, on average, go to the doctor now 11 times per year. I just don’t think we’re that crook. – Tony Shepherd, Commission of Audit Chairman, press conference on the report’s launch, May 1 The…
We’re unlikely to solve persistent challenges to the health system, such as ensuring equitable access to well-coordinated care, with quick fixes. We’re unlikely to solve persistent challenges to the health system, such as ensuring equitable access to well-coordinated care, with quick fixes. AAP Image/Quentin Jones

The state of Australia: health

In the lead-up to the budget, the story of crisis has been hammered home, but there’s more to a country than its structural deficit. So how is Australia doing overall? In this special series, ten writers…
For general patients, the minimum co-payment would be A$15. For general patients, the minimum co-payment would be A$15. Shutterstock

GP co-payments: a triple fail for the Commission of Audit

The Commission of Audit’s proposals about GP co-payments are just that, proposals. They are not government policy, nor should they be. Some aspects of the Commission’s recommendations are good. But the…
Progress on GP super clinics is mixed, but it would be a mistake to condemn the program without a closer evaluation. Progress on GP super clinics is mixed, but it would be a mistake to condemn the program without a closer evaluation. Shutterstock

GP clinics aren’t so super but it’s too early to pull the plug

The former Labor government’s GP Super Clinics Program has come in for a bashing. The Coalition has derided it as “a total waste of money” and News Corp has dubbed it a “dangerous health care experiment…
It passes the ‘milk bar test’ but once you look behind it, big risks emerge. It passes the ‘milk bar test’ but once you look behind it, big risks emerge. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Save now, spend later: why co-payments for GP visits are a bad idea

Like a movie zombie, a policy idea that should have died has arisen from the dead and is likely to feature as a cost-savings measure in next month’s budget. The idea is simple: most GP patients should…
‘Going private’ may speed up your time to treatment, but Medicare shouldn’t pick up the tab. ‘Going private’ may speed up your time to treatment, but Medicare shouldn’t pick up the tab. Shutterstock

Want Medicare savings? Stop paying for private hospitals

The polls this week suggest half of Australians think the Abbott government should reduce the cost of Medicare. My solution? Claw back some of the A$9 billion the government pays to private hospitals…
The cost of operations varies from hospital to hospital but a higher price doesn’t equal better care. The cost of operations varies from hospital to hospital but a higher price doesn’t equal better care. TheTun/Shutterstock

Public hospital efficiency gains could save $1 billion a year

Public hospital spending has been the single fastest-growing area of government spending over the past decade. As governments, policymakers and economists put health spending under the microscope, it’s…
Rather than looking back, we need to decide on the future foundations of Australia’s health system. Rather than looking back, we need to decide on the future foundations of Australia’s health system. Image from shutterstock.com

On being treated well: reforming Medicare after 30 years

Treasurer Joe Hockey and health minister Peter Dutton have been in overdrive this past week lowering expectations for the May budget and reminding Australians that its 30-year-old Medicare system is “unsustainable…
Government spending is already targeted toward poorer households. Government spending is already targeted toward poorer households. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Making the rich pay more isn’t the answer to a better Medicare

Should the rich pay more for their health care? This question has raised its ugly head again after health minister Peter Dutton announced the Coalition government was considering more user-pays options…
Big announcements aren’t the answer – the health system needs a long-term plan. Big announcements aren’t the answer – the health system needs a long-term plan. AAP Image/Quentin Jones

Mr Abbott, make 2014 a year of health reform, not regression

This year is crunch time for Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s health policies. The financing and policy changes from the Rudd-Gillard government are finally taking effect and the National Commission of Audit…
Medicare guarantees free public hospital care and funds a range of primary care and other health services. Medicare guarantees free public hospital care and funds a range of primary care and other health services. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: what is Medicare and how does it work?

Medicare is Australia’s universal health scheme. It is a Commonwealth government program that guarantees all citizens (and some overseas visitors) access to a wide range of health services at little or…
Some Australians are struggling to get timely access to affordable health care. Some Australians are struggling to get timely access to affordable health care. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Medicare turns 30 and begins to show signs of ageing

Tomorrow marks an important Australian milestone: 30 years of Medicare and the guarantee of universal access to health care. Before Medicare, it was not that uncommon for people to avoid using health-care…
Some insurers are testing opportunities to expand their involvement in primary care. Some insurers are testing opportunities to expand their involvement in primary care. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Balancing public and private as health insurers move into primary care

Prompted by the government’s Commission of Audit, health policy analysts have spent the first weeks of the year vigorously debating ways to rein in Australia’s rising health budget and to make the system…
An identical patient with an identical presenting symptom of ‘tension headache’ might lead to a thousand different discussions. An identical patient with an identical presenting symptom of ‘tension headache’ might lead to a thousand different discussions. DIBP images

GP consultations are often more complicated than you think

When we think of what defines a medical consultation, we quite reasonably think of the “presenting complaint”: the medical problem which the patient brings to the doctor. In movies, literature, common…
Co-payments are an unfair tool for reducing health costs. Co-payments are an unfair tool for reducing health costs. Alex E. Proimos

Six dollar co-payment to see a doctor: a GP’s view

As a GP, when I prescribe a drug, I need to know its likely benefits and risks, and I need to base my decision-making on the best available evidence. I’d like to think the same principle applies to the…
Innovative health policy solutions could help the health budget and improve patients' health. Innovative health policy solutions could help the health budget and improve patients' health. Image from shutterstock.com

Paying doctors to keep patients healthy – if the price is right

Consensus and evidence suggests a compulsory co-payment of A$6 for a visit to the general practitioner will reduce population health but might save some money. Can we not try a bit harder and think of…
The financial pain of a A$6 co-payment won’t increase health literacy or self-management. The financial pain of a A$6 co-payment won’t increase health literacy or self-management. Image from shutterstock.com

Mind the gap: $6 GP visit proposal ignores the evidence

Incremental creep and massive holes in universal health coverage (think dental care) have left many Australians questioning whether there’s any such thing as “free health care”. One recent study estimated…
Countries relying on private health insurance, such as the United States, pay far more for health care. Countries relying on private health insurance, such as the United States, pay far more for health care. Kate Ter Haar

Six reasons why Australia needs a single national health insurer

We have come to see private health insurance as an essential part of the national health funding mix, but it’s actually quite a costly way to fund health care. A well-designed system with a single national…
In a new book, former Labor leader Mark Latham and other prominent party figures attempt to diagnose the party’s malaise. In a new book, former Labor leader Mark Latham and other prominent party figures attempt to diagnose the party’s malaise. AAP/Alan Porritt

Book review: Not Dead Yet - What Future for Labor?

It is a sign of Labor’s crisis that Mark Latham, the party’s former parliamentary leader, has been re-admitted to polite centre-Left company. For his book Not Dead Yet: What Future for Labor?, Latham has…
The health budget isn’t limitless: decisions have to be made about to how to allocate funding between competing choices. The health budget isn’t limitless: decisions have to be made about to how to allocate funding between competing choices. AAP/Dave Hunt

Health funding under the microscope – but what should we pay for?

In the sixth part of our series Health Rationing, Mark Mackay examines the latest think tank blueprint to rein in Australia’s rising health costs. But he warns that before funding models are adjusted…
Recent surveys show many Australians have not filled a prescription because of cost. Recent surveys show many Australians have not filled a prescription because of cost. Robert S. Donovan

Why automating the PBS safety net will be good for everyone

A growing number of people globally live with chronic illness. By the time they reach 65, most Australians have at least one chronic condition and 80% have three or more. Pharmaceutical treatment is often…
The Medicare Safety Net is riddled with costly flaws, making the system prone to misuse and manipulation. The Medicare Safety Net is riddled with costly flaws, making the system prone to misuse and manipulation. AAP

Who reaps the benefits? Rethinking the Medicare Safety Net

Medicare is one of the cornerstones of the Australian health care system, but there are serious questions about some aspects of the program. Over time, government reforms have created some perverse incentives…
One of the problems with Medicare is that it has become locked in place. One of the problems with Medicare is that it has become locked in place. AAP

Look beyond the hype to see what’s really wrong with Medicare

The debate about Medicare has received a new focus with comments from Dr Tony Webber, the former director of the Professional Services Review – the body that regulates success to Medicare and Pharmaceutical…
Incentives paid by the government have failed to provide the changes needed to shore up Medicare for the future. Incentives paid by the government have failed to provide the changes needed to shore up Medicare for the future. AAP

What ails thee: diagnosing the health of Medicare

Health Minister Nicola Roxon recently floated the idea that it might be time to revamp Medicare. Previous attempts have resulted in band-aid efforts to cover policy failures that contribute to out-of-pocket…