Anthony Albanese announces major shake-up to Medicare – here’s what we know so far

Biggest changes to Medicare since its inception nearly 40 years ago: Anthony Albanese announces overhaul of  system that’s ‘struggling to keep up’ – here’s how it will affect you

  •  Anthony Albanese has announced Medicare changes
  •  System is ‘struggling to keep up,’ the PM said 
  •  Nurses, pharmacists allowed to perform primary care

Medicare will undergo its most significant overhaul since its inception by allowing nurses and pharmacists to perform primary care. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday said the Medicare system his government inherited was ‘struggling to keep up’, with GPs charging higher fees and patients struggling to get appointments.

Bulk billing rates plummeted by seven per cent in the past year, and keep falling as general practices charge higher fees to supplement Medicare rebates.

In addition, waiting times for GP appointments have blown out to more than a month for some doctors, as demand rises due to population growth while the number of GPs falls as more doctors move into more lucrative specialist fields.

Medicare is due to undergo its most significant overhaul since its inception. Above, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a pharmacy 

As a result, many people are going to hospital emergency departments for routine issues because they cannot get access to a GP.

‘What we know we need to do is fix primary health care,’ he told Sunrise. 

‘The big thing we are looking at is how do you take pressure off the system, and we are doing that – talking to the AMA, talking to the Royal Australian College of GPs, talking with experts because we want to make sure that this Medicare task force is listened to.’ 

Health Minister Mark Butler told The Australian the system was in ‘real trouble’, stuck in the 1980s and 1990s, and no longer made sense.

Rising gap fees means experts and the government alike fear that without serious reform, access to primary healthcare would become out of reach of millions of Australians.

‘We need doctors working hand in glove with practice nurses, allied health professionals and pharmacists,’ Mr Butler said. 

Nurses will be relied upon to take a greater role in primary care as there are fewer GPs and a rising, and aging, population

Nurses will be relied upon to take a greater role in primary care as there are fewer GPs and a rising, and aging, population

The government admits the current system of government subsidising individual consultations through GPs alone is no longer fit for purpose.

The new model would allow nurses and allied health practitioners working in teams to deliver complex care and receive the subsidy payments in the same way GPs do.

Ms Plibersek said there were a ‘lot of highly skilled people’ working across the healthcare system, and should be tapped into.

The details of the new funding model are yet to be finalised.