Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Medicare under threat

By Beth Mohle - posted Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Health has certainly been in the news in recent times - and generally for all the wrong reasons. Crisis management and “blame shifting” have become the norm rather than the exception. Rational and well thought out responses to our current predicament are rare. Community confidence in our health system has been shaken and this is not likely to improve if we cannot move out of crisis mode. A subtle shift in health policy, from public health provision to public health payments, has been occurring nationally.

It is difficult to achieve a sustained focus on the source of our problems in health and the reforms needed to address them. The issues are complex and inter-related and there will be no quick fix or simple solutions. A co-ordinated and concerted effort is required from state and federal governments, “consumers” of health services, private health service providers, and a myriad of other key stakeholders, if we are to implement sustainable solutions.

Since 1998 the Public Hospitals Health and Medicare Alliance of Queensland (PHHAMAQ) has been actively lobbying all levels of government for a co-ordinated response to health reform. PHHAMAQ is a community based coalition that shares common concerns about the future of the Australian health system, with membership drawn form health consumer organisations, health provider organisations, community organisations and trade unions.


The purpose of PHHAMAQ is to:

  • share information about issues of concern to PHHAMAQ members; and
  • raise awareness within the community and with all political parties about health matters.

Members of PHHAMAQ subscribe to a basic set of principles in their lobbying and community engagement activities:

  • health care is a right that should be based on need and not on ability to pay;
  • healthy citizens are the most valuable resource of any society;
  • the best and fairest way of achieving health care is through Medicare, Australia’s universal tax-funded health insurance system;
  • Medicare is the fairest way of meeting people’s needs while containing costs and compares favourably with health systems in other OECD countries; and
  • Medicare provides a common good for the benefit of all Australians.

The provision of private health services is and should only ever be complementary to the maintenance of a viable and effective public health system. PHHAMAQ is a member of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance (AHCRA). The Queensland Nurses’ Union (QNU) provides secretariat support for PHHAMAQ and PHHAMAQ resources can be accessed from the QNU website.

By 1998 it became apparent that at federal government level a significant shift in health policy was quietly taking place, that is, a shift in emphasis from a universal model of health care (as exemplified by Medicare) towards a US-style user pays model.


Foundation members of PHHAMAQ were concerned that history may be repeating itself - just as Medibank (Medicare’s predecessor) had been undermined by stealth under the Fraser Government the same fate appeared to be in store for Medicare. Although the rhetoric of the Howard Government is that they are “Medicare’s best friend” actions speak louder than words.

Under the Howard Government out of pocket health expenses have skyrocketed and universal rates of bulk billing by GPs have declined. Medicare is increasingly becoming a “safety net” arrangement. Specifically targeted, rather than universal, initiatives are favoured. Those who can “afford to” are encouraged to take responsibility for their own health. On the surface the rhetoric sounds logical and fair, but the outcomes from adopting such an approach are neither.

Unfortunately, state governments appear to be increasingly falling for this “user pays” ideology as the pressure of increased healthcare costs is felt.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

Article edited by Peter Coates.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

25 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Beth Mohle represents the Public Hospitals Health and Medicare Alliance of Queensland (PHHAMAQ).

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Beth Mohle
Article Tools
Comment 25 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy