Medicare at 40: time for a mid-life ‘health check’

Piece of printed paper with the heading 'Medicare'

Medicare at 40: time for a mid-life ‘health check’

Piece of printed paper with the heading 'Medicare'

The big 4-0 has well and truly hit Medicare and it’s not all about blowing out the candles on the cake. The Australian Physiotherapy Association’s (APA) 2024-25 Pre-Budget submission demands reform that can give Australians a health system that is getting better with age.

Released earlier this week, Strengthening Medicare: Funding What Matters proposes improvements in five critical areas that utilise the physiotherapy workforce to promote healthier lives and drive systemic changes, aimed at enhancing health and improving care.

APA National President Scott Willis said this submission delves deeper than surface level, presenting new, advanced pathways that optimise the patient journey through referral, diagnosis and treatment.

“The oversight of past Governments to acknowledge and respond to the changing healthcare needs of Australians has resulted in the classic middle-age spread, that isn't fit for the future and won't be resolved by more of the same funding decisions. It’s time for real change. Fully implementing the recommendations proposed in the APA’s submission is the clearest path to strengthening Medicare’s ability to reduce significant barriers for affordable and accessible healthcare for patients,” Mr Willis said.

“The crossroads we are currently at with Medicare is very reminiscent of a mid-life crisis and we must truly embrace its transformation. It requires a deep structural change, where physiotherapists are allowed to work to the top of their skillset, ultimately advancing health, improving care and increasing value for the patient.

“Medicare’s 40th anniversary gives us an opportunity to hold the mirror up to how the system operates, so we can truly give patients the care they need, when they need it. We all recognise the mid-life crisis trope of short-term decisions and spending on the wrong things. Medicare has an opportunity to not fall into that trap, but rather to fund what matters and what will make a real long-term difference. 

“To strengthen Medicare, we need to bolster the foundations and redesign the care journey for patients to have access to team-based primary healthcare. For the more than 11 million Australians who live with one or more chronic health conditions, receiving this type of multidisciplinary care, including access to physiotherapy, is vital for the management and prevention of future health problems,” he said.

The APA’s first priority is putting patients at the centre of their own care journey, calling for the immediate removal of costly barriers that make it harder for patients to access the care they need, when they need it. 

“We must have a patient journey in primary care that is accessible, affordable and guarantees the best health outcomes for patients with musculoskeletal conditions, by allowing practitioners to work to the top of their skillset,” Mr Willis said.

The APA’s submission focuses on five key areas:

  1. Empowering patients and integrating care
  2. Prioritising the full recovery journey for birth trauma, non-operative pathways, ‘pre-habilitation’ and recovery from common musculoskeletal injuries 
  3. Prioritising prevention and early intervention for falls, pain strategies and pulmonary rehabilitation
  4. Better care and outcomes for our people in rural areas, aged care, those living with disability, or who are part of our First Nations and veteran communities
  5. Futureproofing our health system amidst climate change and securing the next generation of physiotherapists.Mr Willis says a joint effort from all stakeholders is the only way to move towards a healthier, more equitable Australia. 

“Medicare is getting older, and it has an opportunity to now be wiser.’ Our submission doesn’t merely suggest a facelift. It spotlights five critical areas where systemic change is needed, giving Australians a reason to believe the years to come will see a smoother path to better health.

“These proposals represent the APA’s commitment to ensuring that all Australians, regardless of age, location, or condition, have access to the transformative power of physiotherapy. It is critical the Federal Government makes a significant commitment to improving the healthcare system for the benefit of all people living in Australia,” said Mr Willis. 

“This is where reform begins. Measures are needed to improve access to essential care, reduce out-of-pocket costs and, most importantly, reduce costly and inefficient treatments, all of which have physiotherapy-led solutions to ultimately fix the patient journey,” Mr Willis said.  


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