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Indigenous health expenditure deficits obscured in Closing the Gap reports

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Indigenous health expenditure trends are obscured amid myriad medical indicators and reports on Indigenous Australians’ health. The Australian Government’s Closing the Gap strategy seeks health equality for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, neglecting the economics of the strategy perpetuates poor system performance as financial and resource constraints on individuals, and increasingly on the public health system, are ignored.

In contrast with Australian reporting, nearly a third of health system performance indicators of the World Health Organization’s 100 core health indicators (2015) relate to expenditure.1

Four interacting factors within Australia’s health system are potentially lethal for many Indigenous people:

  • Limited Indigenous-specific primary health care services;

  • Indigenous peoples’ underutilisation of many mainstream health services and limited access to government health subsidies;

  • Increasing price signals in the public health system and low Indigenous private health insurance rates;

  • Failure to maintain real expenditure levels over time.

Government expenditure is not commensurate with the substantially greater and more complex health needs of Indigenous Australians. It should be indexed to reflect these…

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