In 1984 a comprehensive health care system, Medicare, was introduced. Medicare facilitates access by all eligible Australian residents to free or low-cost medical, optometric and public hospital care, while leaving them free to choose private health services.
Individuals’ financial contributions to the public health care system are based on their income and are made through a taxation levy known as the Medicare levy.
Australia’s public hospital system is jointly funded by the Australian Government and state and territory governments and is administered by state and territory health departments.
People admitted to public hospitals as public (Medicare) patients receive treatment by doctors and specialists nominated by the hospital. They are not charged for care and treatment or after-care by the treating doctor.
Private patients in public or private hospitals can choose the doctor who treats them. Medicare pays 75 per cent of the Medicare schedule fee for services and procedures provided by the treating doctor. For patients who have private health insurance, some or all of the outstanding balance may be covered. Private patients are charged for hospital accommodation and items such as theatre fees and medicine. These costs may also be covered by private health insurance but are not covered by Medicare.
Medicare Australia is the agency within the Department of Human Services responsible for processing and paying Medicare benefits for approved services. Medicare Australia also pays pharmaceutical benefits under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which subsidises an agreed list of prescription drugs.
For both medical and pharmaceutical services, safety net arrangements exist to make sure patients who need a high level of treatment or medication during a financial year do not incur significant out-of-pocket expenses. Out-of-pocket costs are the difference between the Medicare benefit and what the patient is actually charged.
The Australian Government also provides medical, pharmaceutical and hospital services for veterans, war widows and their eligible dependants under legislation administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The Australian Government provides about two-thirds (67 per cent) of public sector expenditure on health, and state, territory and local governments provide the rest.
Note: I have what they call a "Gold Card" Pat. They are issued automatically to war veterans over 70 years of age, and to those like myself who have a war caused disability. The card is given to us regardless of assets. Joe Blow living on the street, or as rich as Rupert Murdoch.....meeting the age and disability criteria automatically gets you issued one. The benefit of the Gold Card ??? Everything is free. Doctors, Specialists, Hospitals, Treatment, Medicines, Dental, Physiotherapy, Optometrical....every single thing related to our health is free.