Medicare, Australia’s universal access system is fast facing some serious issues that will affect how sustainable it is over the coming times. The system is mostly state funded, and the following factors will have a detrimental effect on the system if real changes aren’t put in place now.
Firstly, the demographic of age groups has significantly changed, and will continue to do so, as healthcare is more readily available and improves. In 2013, 14% of Australia’s population was aged over 65. By 2053, this figure will increase to 21%. This age group often need the most medical care, and as the care and treatments improve, so does longevity, meaning there is a large burden on the healthcare system.
The pay gap between male and female nurses is also fast becoming an issue. As the gap stands at almost 30% in nursing, but around 14% in many other sectors, we will see a decrease in female nurses as they realise that having the best nursing essay and higher exam results will still them stuck so far behind their male counterparts that this maybe isn’t the best career path for them. And as nursing is still a predominantly female career, this will have a huge effect on healthcare.
Technology and research that is being used to advance healthcare and prolong life is costing the healthcare sector a huge amount of money. In most industries, technology and research combine to find more cost effective solutions. In medicine, advancements and breakthroughs lead to ever more expensive treatment plans and options. The budget for healthcare will need a drastic shake up if we are to sustain free healthcare for those who need it.
The increased longevity also has the knock on effect of making waiting lists for treatments longer. This means that a lot more people who can afford private healthcare will take that route. Although on face value this seems like a good thing, it isn’t. Many of these people’s treatments would only be partially funded through Medicare, meaning that further revenue is lost. And as the private sector flourishes, governments are more likely to push for the privatisation of all medical care which would be a disaster for many low income families.
The only way to ensure the long term survival of Medicare is to start implementing some serious policy changes now before it is too late.