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Indigenous, non-Indigenous health spending ratio stays same

03 April, 2008

Per person spending on health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was 17% higher than for the non-Indigenous population in 2004-05, according to a report released recently by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

AIHW health economist John Goss said, '$4,718 was spent on health per Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person, 17% higher than the $4,019 per person estimated for non-Indigenous Australians.'

'This is very similar to our 18% estimate for 2001-02, and there has been no significant change in this ratio in the last nine years,' he said.

This 17% higher health expenditure is in the context of Indigenous health status being much worse than for other Australians, and a corresponding higher need for health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

According to the report, Expenditures on health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 2004-05, total expenditure on health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was estimated at $2,304 million in 2004-05.

State and territory governments and the Australian Government funded almost equal amounts of money for Indigenous health care (48% and 45% respectively) and 8% came from private sources, including out-of-pocket payments.

'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people relied more heavily on public services than other Australians, particularly public hospitals and community health services,' Goss said, 'and consequently Government funding of services used by Indigenous persons was much higher than for other Australians-$4,356 per person compared with $2,763, or 58% higher.'

'This level of funding is similar to the funding Governments provide to other Australians with similar low income levels to Indigenous Australians,' he said.

'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples used privately provided medical, pharmaceutical and other health practitioner services less than non-Indigenous Australians, and in particular were comparatively low users of Medicare, and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS),' Goss said.

Medicare benefits for medical services per person were estimated at just 46% of the non Indigenous average and those for the PBS (including special arrangements in remote areas) at 51%.

Although improvements have been made, accurate Indigenous identification is still a major barrier to more precise data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' use of health care.

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