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RESEARCH: Challenges and Issues of the Australian Healthcare System


This study was done in 2016 and there have been a lot of changes and progress since then. Today in 2020 as we are faced with the biggest challenges of all. The Coronavirus pandemic, how is the current system of Australian Healthcare is handling things? Are you satisfied or would you have any recommendations for improvement?

Macri J, from the Department of Economics, Macquarie University published a research in 2016 discussing issues and challenges on the Australian Healthcare System:

“Australia has an institutionally set publicly funded health system (i.e. Medicare) that’s underpinned by a ‘universal access’ principle. This entitles Australian residents to subsidised treatment from health care professionals (i.e. doctors, medical specialists, etc.) and access to free treatment in publicly funded hospitals. Interestingly, Australians have a option to access private insurance (which covers private hospitals, dental, specialists, etc.); however, the value of this is often predominantly borne by the insured making payment to some private health providers. Australia’s health system is complex within the structure; particularly, it’s funding and responsibilities is shared between federal, state, and territory governments. This fragmented funding model and informational asymmetry between patients and health service providers have made coordinating patient care difficult.

Australia’s publicly funded Medicare system ranks well internationally (e.g. high lifetime, low infant mortality rate rates, etc.) [1]. However, Australia, like many industrialised countries, will confront major issues and challenges over the subsequent decade in maintaining and importantly, improving patient health care. the subsequent are the key core health issues and challenges that i think Australia will have to address.”

Challenges and Issues of the Australian Healthcare System

#1 Demographic changes

The ability of the health services sector to stay up the health and well-being of an ageing population, within the context of tightening budgets and increasing costs within the supply of health care services, will pose a significant challenge for successive Australian governments. In 2013, 14% of the population were aged 65. it’s projected that by 2053, 21% of the population is visiting be aged 65. All Australian governments have typically resisted making substantial changes to the publicly and popularly supported Medicare system for fear of voter backlash. However, in recent years, governments are forced to handle the increasing budgetary burden through (i) efficiency gains and (ii) subsidising private health care, with the expectation that higher-income earners will move to the private medical providers.

#2 Technology costs

Technology and technological breakthroughs have improved the lives of patients in terms of diagnostics and so the management of serious diseases within the 21st century. However, the continual cost and diffusion of technology will impose serious budgetary constraints in maintaining and improving health care. it’s interesting that technology in non-health industries decreases over time; however, health care technology and so the precise kind of technology has increased the burden on government budgets [2]. The challenge is to use technologies that not only improve the health and well-being of citizens but also cost-effective treatments.

#3 Private and public funding of health care

In Australia there is a ‘perception’, particularly from Liberal governments, that Australia’s health care system would work more efficiently if it had been left to the market. Australia contains a singular combination of public and private, with approximately 30% of expenditure derived from the private sector. the increase within the value of technology, an ageing population, disease management measures, among others, will force the Australian government to search for market-based mechanisms in addressing the larger budgetary pressures on successive governments (e.g. pricing to market of medical services, GP surcharge, etc.).

#4 Issues within the medical research sector

Australia encompasses an extended history of research on medical breakthroughs. Interestingly though, Australia lacks: (i) fundamental structures and cross-stakeholder links that are required to integrate national health and medical research plans (ii) alignment of medical research with national health priorities (iii) strategic objectives within the allocation of scarce research funds (ad hoc) [3].

#5 Equity issues and health inequality

There are huge improvements within the health outcomes in Australia (as measured by increased lifespan, lower mortality rates, more efficient disease management controls, among others). However, this has not been shared equally across groups. for example, the lifespan of the indigenous population (approximately 70 years of age) is significantly under the non-indigenous population (approximately 84 years of age). there’s also a significant difference with the health care treatment that affluent people receive versus the less affluent.

#6 Rapid urbanisation health issues

Increased urbanisation across many developed nations has also created a range of health challenges for governments within the design of healthy and sustainable communities. as an example, increased urbanisation has posed significant issues on the access to fresh foods, higher rates of obesity, asthma rates, increasing mental well-being issues (e.g. increasing suicide rates), among others.


“Australia, like many developed countries, will face serious policy challenges that it’ll have to address over the subsequent decade; particularly, an increasingly ageing population, increased medical technology costs, the public-private mixture of health expenditure, structural research issues within the medical sector, equity considerations across groups and rapid urbanisation.” – Macri J


Citation:  Macri J. Australia’s Health System: Some Issues and Challenges. J Health Med Econ. 2016, 2:2


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