Veterans' use of health services 'similar to rest of community'

Veterans, and war widows and widowers, use health services at similar levels to the rest of the community-once allowance is made for age, service-related disability and marital status, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Health Care Usage and Costs-a comparison of veterans and war widows and widowers with the rest of the community focuses on people entitled to a Gold Card under the Veterans Entitlements Act and their use of services from 1997 to 2000.

Report co-author John Goss said that the study compared Gold Card holders with the rest of the community in three major health expenditure areas: hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and local medical officers/general practitioners.

'The Department of Veterans' Affairs commissioned us to do this work to gain a better understanding of how health services were delivered to their Gold Card holders, to whom, and at what cost', Mr Goss said.

'But in analysing these figures we have to take account of the quite marked differences between the veteran population and the rest of the community'.

'The most obvious difference is that veterans, and war widows and widowers, are much older than the rest of the community. In 1999, 78% of the Gold Card population was aged 70 to 84 years, compared with 6% for the rest of the Australian population.'

'Also, around 40% of the Gold Card population have a service-related disability, which is a key factor in the use of health services.'

'Overall, we found that, as would be expected of an older population as compared with a younger population, there was much greater use of hospital services, medical services and pharmaceuticals. Compared with the rest of the community of similar age, the use by veterans is still higher, but is consistent with their greater levels of disability.'

'Female Gold Card holders without a service-related disability had higher health service use than the rest of the community. But they are mostly widows, who are known to have poorer health on average than married women.'

'We found little difference in costliness of hospital services and pharmaceuticals for the Gold Card holders compared with the rest of the community. GP-type services were 12% more expensive for the veterans, but this corresponds with the fact that DVA contracts pay 100% of the Medicare Schedule fee, whereas the average cost for older patients in the general community was 88% of the Schedule fee in 1999-00.'


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