More Medicare funding goes to ‘wealthy kids’
A new study has found that Medicare is equitable for government spending on GP consultations for children, but it’s not equitable for spending on specialists and testing.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne assessed the amount of Medicare spending on children according to five family income groups, from poorest to richest, using the data of over 10,000 children from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.
Children from higher income households gained a greater share of Medicare resources over the first 1,000 days of their lives.
For children aged zero to one year, the richest 20 per cent used 30 per cent of specialist resources and the poorest 20 per cent of children used only 12 per cent. As the children grew older, the payments became more even.
The researchers told the online magazine The Conversation that part of the problem could be the patient payment that is often required when seeing a specialist.
“A recent study found an average co-payment of $127 to see a paediatrician in Australia, with some costing much more,” they said.
“This may be a barrier to poorer families using specialists for their children’s care. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around eight per cent of people in Australia who need healthcare report delaying or not seeking care because of cost.
“Another explanation could be getting specialist healthcare to children in rural areas, away from large children’s hospitals.”