Many of us are stressed about wrapping up work commitments and getting the Christmas shopping done, but spare a thought for the people rushing to fix Medicare.

It’s a broken system that needs an overhaul, and there’s a tight timeline to work out what comes next.

Medicare needs to catch up to meet Australia’s health needs.Credit:iStock

The Albanese government was elected in May on a $1 billion pledge to do this. New Health Minister Mark Butler has established a taskforce and given them until the end of the year to come up with a plan.

It won’t be easy. Medicare was established four decades ago and has hit a mid-life crisis. While Medicare hasn’t changed much in that time, Australians’ health needs have transformed.

In 1984, one in 10 Australians was over 65. Now it’s one in six. Most people that age have at least one chronic condition, such as diabetes, and half have at least two. Younger Australians have rising chronic disease and mental health needs too.

That means GPs are rushing even faster than the minister’s taskforce. With increasingly complex patients, GPs have to pack more and more into each consultation, but the average appointment length has been stuck at 15 minutes for 20 years. Many GPs feel they can’t keep up.

In 1984, one in 10 Australians was over 65. Now it’s one in six.

Forcing GPs to carry this load without enough support, and a rigid funding model that rewards speed not need, are the real reasons for the crisis in general practice.

While lower Medicare rebates and a national GP shortage have been blamed, the facts don’t bear this out. A recent study showed that general practice income has been rising and profits have been steady. And Australia has more GPs than ever, more than almost any other wealthy country, and record numbers in training.

QOSHE - What do Australians really want for Christmas? A new Medicare - Peter Breadon
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What do Australians really want for Christmas? A new Medicare

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04.12.2022

Many of us are stressed about wrapping up work commitments and getting the Christmas shopping done, but spare a thought for the people rushing to fix Medicare.

It’s a broken system that needs an overhaul, and there’s a tight timeline to work out what comes next.

Medicare needs to catch up to meet Australia’s health needs.Credit:iStock

The Albanese government was elected in May on a $1 billion pledge to do this. New Health Minister Mark........

© The Sydney Morning Herald


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