Medicare will undergo its most significant overhaul since its inception, opening up primary care delivery to nurses and pharmacists.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Medicare system his government had inherited was “struggling to keep up”.
Bulk billing rates plummeted by seven per cent in the past year, and are continuing to fall as general practice surgeries are left with no choice but to charge higher fees to supplement Medicare rebates.
In addition, patients are struggling to get timely appointments with their GPs, with waiting times blowing out to more than a month for some doctors, due to a slimmer workforce and exploding demand.
Mr Albanese said too many people were turning up to emergency departments because they couldn’t get access to a GP.
“What we know we need to do is fix primary health care,” he told Channel 7.
Under the plan being considered by the Albanese government, primary healthcare would be opened to pharmacists. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Daryl Wright.
“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 this Medicare task force is listened to.”
Health Minister Mark Butler told The Australian the system was in “real trouble”.
He said the system was stuck in the 1980s and 1990s, and no longer made sense.
Rising gap fees means experts and the government alike fear that without serious reform, access to primary healthcare would become out of reach of millions of Australians.
“We need doctors working hand in glove with practice nurses, allied health professionals and pharmacists,” Mr Butler said.
The Albanese government says the previous governments had abandoned Medicare. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the previous government had neglected Medicare for 10 years.
“We need to do something to get it back on its feet,” she told Channel 7.
The government is considering rolling out a “blended” funding system, given the current system of subsidised individual consultations through GPs alone is no longer fit for purpose.
The new model would also fund nurses and allied health practitioners working in teams to deliver complex care.
Ms Plibersek said there were a “lot of highly skilled people” working across the healthcare system, and should be tapped in to.
The details of the new funding model are yet to be finalised.
Read related topics:Anthony Albanese