Medicare at 40: where to now?

CHF has continued to advocate strongly for health consumers as Medicare celebrated its 40th anniversary on 1 February 2024.

In the media and directly to Health Minister Mark Butler, CHF CEO Elizabeth Deveny has called on the Australian government to fund CHF to deliver public education on how best to better understand and access all the health services that Medicare provides.

This need for greater support for health literacy education was supported by key sector representatives who attended a CHF stakeholder lunch in Melbourne on 31 January.

Attendees included representatives from key stakeholder groups including the RACGP, AMA, Mental Health Australia, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association and Continence Foundation of Australia.

Gathered for the CHF Medicare 40th anniversary stakeholder lunch are: Dr John Mathew, (AMA Victoria representative, Emma Greeney (Director, Policy and Advocacy, Mental Health Australia), Tony Lawson, (Chair, CHF), Ken Griffin (CEO, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association), Rowan Cockerell (CEO, Continence Foundation), Dr Anita Munoz (Chair, Victoria Council, RACGP), Elizabeth Deveny (CEO, CHF), Melissa Le Mesurier (Director, Advocacy and Engagement, CHF)

After cutting the Medicare “birthday cake”, CHF Chair Tony Lawson welcomed guests and shared that CHF was also marking its 40th anniversary in 2024.

“Just like Medicare, the consumer health movement doesn’t look like it did 40 years ago, and the needs of consumers have also changed, as has their involvement in each part of the healthcare system,” he said.

“We now see consumers actively engaging with health bureaucracies to ensure that the health system is meeting their needs and where it doesn’t, they look to hold the people responsible accountable and create better ways of providing healthcare to remedy the problem.

“This is not going to go away and the next generation of health consumers, and the one after that, will continue to have their voices heard as we fight for full equality in the healthcare system.

“Health consumer organisations need to be properly funded, supported and included in decision-making to achieve this as we work alongside key stakeholders, such as those here today, to deliver full equality to consumers in the healthcare system,” he said.

Speaking at a Deakin University Medicare conference today, Health Minister Mark Butler spoke about the various initiatives to strengthen Medicare including My Medicare and GP bulk-billing incentives.

He said it was pleasing to see a 2.1 per cent increase in bulk-billing rates in the first two months since the Government tripled the bulk billing incentive, especially in regional areas.

“The increase in the bulk billing rate means Australians had an estimated 360,000 additional trips to the GP bulk billed since the tripled incentive began on 1 November,” he said.

The Minister’s full statement can be read here:

CHF CEO Elizabeth Deveny agreed that it was encouraging to see bulk-billing rate increase but said that many consumers did not realise that Medicare covered much more than general practice.

“Sometimes the fact that Medicare helps people access the hospital system and pathology is overlooked,” she said.

“We would like to see more consumers become aware of what Medicare provides them and this should be done through better health civics education.  

“Consumers like that Medicare provides a universal public system which means you can access the care you need, when you need it and you don’t have to financially ruin yourself to access care, unlike other countries like the United States.  

“The universality of Medicare is under threat. CHF is concerned by some of the commentary that has emerged in the sector over the last few years which is viewing Medicare as a safety net and not as a universal access scheme.

“Those who believe in universal healthcare should take note of this and not let our current system be eroded.  

“We know, because consumers tell us, that they love their ‘little green card’ and that they can use it across the country, not just in their local area tied to certain practitioners,” Elizabeth said.

Her comments were covered in a range of media including The Guardian and ABC Radio’s AM Program.

As it has done for 40 years, CHF will continue to promote affordable and accessible healthcare for all Australians in 2024 and beyond.


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