Expenditure on health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people varies with remoteness, but the patterns differ between each of the major types of health spending, according to estimates released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
'It really is a mixed picture,' said Richard Juckes, Head of the AIHW's Expenditure and Economics Unit.
'Our report, Expenditure on health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2006-07: an analysis by remoteness and disease, shows that Indigenous vs non-Indigenous health spending patterns are quite different from city to regional and remote areas, depending on whether we are talking about Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or hospital spending.'
'For example, with Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) expenditure in 2006-07, overall per person spending was lower for Indigenous Australians at 58 cents to every dollar spent on non-Indigenous Australians. But in remote areas it was more like 77 cents to every dollar.'
'For GP services, the per-person amounts spent were virtually equal between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in Outer Regional, and Remote/Very Remote areas. But for the category of Medicare-funded services that includes surgical operations and other procedures, Indigenous spending was less than one-third of non-Indigenous spending in most areas.'
The report shows that expenditure on pharmaceuticals available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) increased with remoteness for Indigenous Australians ($159 per person in major cities, $223 in Remote/Very remote areas), but fell with remoteness for non-Indigenous Australians ($285 per person down to $200 per person).
Mr Juckes said the higher PBS expenditure for Indigenous Australians in remote areas was driven by government arrangements which allow patients attending an approved remote-area Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service to receive PBS medicines without the need for a prescription form, and at no charge.
According to the report, over 40% of hospital admissions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2006-07 were for the disease grouping that includes diseases where kidney dialysis is a treatment. This category was also responsible for the highest health expenditure, accounting for 10% of total Indigenous admitted patient expenditure.
For their non-Indigenous counterparts, these diseases were also responsible for the highest proportion of hospital admissions, accounting for 16% of all admissions, while cardiovascular diseases had the highest expenditure, accounting for 12% of total admitted patient expenditure.