Description

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Australia achieves universal coverage through Medicare, a tax-funded public insurance program that covers most medical care, including physician and hospital services and prescription drugs. Most health services are financed and regulated by the federal government, although the states and territories have responsibility for public hospital care. Besides Medicare, roughly half of Australians receive additional coverage through private insurance, which the government subsidizes and which covers such services as dental care and private hospitals. Most doctors operate in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis, and GPs act as gatekeepers to specialized care. Roughly two-thirds of hospital beds are in public hospitals and the rest in private, although private patients can be treated in public hospitals. Physicians in public hospitals either earn a salary and can receive additional fees for seeing private patients, or are in private practice and receive hourly compensation for treating public patients. Current policy goals include developing a new management structure for public hospitals around local area networks, increasing the federal government’s contribution to public hospitals, introducing performance reporting, and strengthening primary care.