Health Equality Across Australia: Aboriginal People

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Background of the Issue The accessibility and cost of medicines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remains a significant factor when it comes to reaching health equality across Australia. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) expenditure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is approximately half that of the non-Indigenous average despite the three times higher level of illness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. In July 2010, the Closing The Gap (CTG) PBS co-payment measure was introduced by the Australian Government in response to the rate of illness disparency in the Australian population (Australian Government Department of Health, 2013). The primary target was to reduce or remove the patient co-payment for PBS medicines for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients that are affected by or at risk of chronic diseases. However, recent developments in the co-payment measures has proposed the revival of the Hawk Government’s 1991 Budget measure. This means that a ‘modest’, approximately $6, co-payment will be imposed on Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) non-referred general practitioner (GP) visits (Australian Centre for Health Research, 2013). This proposal of a $6 co-payment would save the Federal Government $70 million over four years. However, many Health care and Social Work professionals ask ‘at what cost?’ Dr Beaumont told ABC that if the co-payments were imposed on indigenous people it would have drastic effects - there is no doubt that “the number of dollars would be enough to keep people away from very important, particularly chronic disease services” (La Canna, 2013). Although the proposed co-payment measure on GP visits propose that indigenous people would g... ... middle of paper ... ...ticipants deciding not to initiate care (Manning and Newhouse et al., 1987, pp. 251--277). These findings further solidifies Dr Beaumont’s concerns about the co-payments deterring people away from a range of health care services including chronic disease services. The controversial and sensitive issue involved with patients missing or receiving delayed treatment for significant acute and chronic illnesses as a result of the co-payment measures is significant enough for Health Care and Social Work professionals to advocate against such a proposal. Despite the eligibility of some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to waive the co-payments and health care and social work empowerment the issue of careful monitoring and risk management, especially in relation to patients deciding to forgo essential GP services will eventually fall on the responsibility of the patient.
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