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Changes in health financing

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The medical profession has an important role in the stewardship of the health system

In the past month, we have seen many opinions on what health financing changes have to be made to ensure we have a sustainable health care system. The most notable proposal has been the often-recycled idea of imposing a patient copayment for visits to general practitioners — a concept the Australian Medical Association does not support, for very good reasons.

When governments get nervous about spending in health, they have three options: reduce the price they pay; spend more wisely; or collect more revenue.

In terms of spending on medical services, medical practitioners have done their bit over the past decade on price. The proportion of health expenditure on medical services was 18.8% in the financial year 2001–02 compared with 18.1% in 2011–12.1 Average annual growth in health expenditure on medical services in the decade to 2011–12 was 4%, compared with growth in expenditure on pharmaceuticals covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) of 6.0% and 9.3% for products at the pharmacy.1 Further, growth in average health expenditure by individuals on medical services in the decade to 2011–12 was 4.0%, compared with 5.3%…