Can technology fix the failure of Medicare for rural and remote Australians

Can technology fix the failure of Medicare for rural and remote Australians Conference Paper

15th National Rural Health Conference: Better together!

  • Author(s): Snowball, Kim
  • Secondary Author(s): Coleman, Leanne
  • Published: 2019

Abstract: This presentation will focus on the data, showing the poorer access to Medicare for Australians living in rural and remote areas. The evidence reinforces a statement by the outgoing Federal Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge, in the 2000s that in his view Medicare had failed rural Australia. The presentation will use Medicare data (non-referred attendances-effectively GP consultations) across the Australian Standard Geographic Classification which allows for quantitative comparisons between ‘City’ and ‘Country’. The presentation will focus on the population share of Medicare across very remote, remote and outer regional and compare it to major cities. This will show whether Medicare access for rural Australians has improved or continues to be a failure. The difference in access will be described in dollar terms for each of the geographic classifications. The presentation will then overlay the burden of disease, preventable admissions and the higher health risks faced by those living in these areas. These health issues are all preventable and treatable with early access, response and advocacy by primary health care services. It seems strange that those in Australia who are sickest and with high health risks have the least access to Medicare, simply because of where they live. This was once excusable on the basis that it was difficult to get general practitioners into the remote and small rural communities. That excuse has now gone with access to technology. The presentation will show the evidence that health outcomes in rural and remote Australia would be transformed by a simple act of allowing general practitioners to provide Medicare-funded services through telehealth. Patients of specialists of all types, including FACEMS, radiologists and psychiatrists, all enjoy Medicare rebates for telehealth consultations. This shows safety and quality are not a barrier to using technology. Supporting general practitioners through the same access for their patients in remote Australia and in those areas where there is no general practitioner service using telehealth would be an extremely cost effective means of addressing their preventable health risks and conditions. The presentation will conclude with a projected cost to Medicare of providing the same access to Medicare as city Australians. It will call on the National Rural Health Alliance and its partners to advocate for unrestricted Medicare rebates for GP services into remote and rural communities.

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Suggested Citation
Snowball, Kim, 2019, Can technology fix the failure of Medicare for rural and remote Australians, Conference Paper, viewed 15 June 2024,

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