Australia provides a large range and types of health facilities and services. Health facilities and services can be institutional, such as: hospitals, and nursing homes; or non-institutional, such as: General practitioners, dentists, research groups, and pharmaceutical services.
Hospitals provide a wide range of services, including: emergency care, elective surgery, rehabilitation, and midwifery services. Hospitals can be either private or public, with patients having the choice of being a private patient in a public hospital, or remaining as a public patient. Medicare covers the costs of public hospitals making them more accessible to socioeconomically disadvantaged people, though private hospitals require either full payment by the patient or a combined payment using a private health insurer.
Nursing homes provide services for people suffering from chronic disease or disability, and mostly care for the elderly. Nursing homes are a growing industry, and are expected to continue to grow and Australia’s population continues to age. Nursing homes can be charitable (private), private (for profit) or government owned. The government provides most of the funding for nursing homes, much like it does for school, with the private homes requiring further payment from the individual.
General Practitioners are a community service and often the first point of access into medical and health services. Medicare covers the bulk of the cost, with many GPs choosing to add additional fees on top of that provided by the government, though there are still some who bulk bill (no extra cost to the individual). Over the last few years, after-hours GP’s have grown in order to reduce the use of emergency services, as a number of patients in emergency, do not require emergency treatment, but access to a the services of a GP, often not available.
Dentists are not generally covered by Medicare and require the patients to either pay out of pocket, or through their private insurer. However, some can claim rebates through Medicare under the Chronic Disease Benefit Scheme combined with the Allied Health Initiative.
Allied health providers are not normally covered by Medicare, though the introduction of the Allied Health Initiative has allowed some rebate to be claimed for some, including: physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, exercise physiologist, occupational therapist, and psychologists.
Pharmaceutical services are funded through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which provides partial payments for many medications with set amounts being payed by the patient. The PBS provides extra funding for people with special needs, such as: pensioners, concession cardholders and war veterans.