Health gap expenses continue to leave us out-of-pocket               

Our Canberra Report                                                                                       

AUSTRALIANS are spending more than $2080 a year on health expenses that are not covered by Medicare or their health fund - $114 above the average for other developed countries.

A recently aquired  Institute of Health and Welfare report shows Australia had the fifth highest out-of-pocket health costs in the OECD   as health consumer groups warn sick Australians are no longer able to afford specialist visits, dental care or some medicines.

In Britain out-of-pocket expenses were less than half those in Australia at just $459 a year, in New Zealand $476, Canada $946 and in the US $1455. Patients now pay $23.8 billion or 18.3 per cent of the nation's health budget out of their own pocket and this proportion has been rising for three years - from 16.8 per cent in 2007-08.

These expenses are being driven by higher gap payments to see doctors because Medicare rebates have not kept pace with doctors' fee rises. Nearly $4 billion was spent on medical gaps.

Patients spent more than $4.5 billion out of their own pocket on dental care, $8 billion on medications not covered by the nation's drug subsidy scheme and $2.5 billion on aids and appliances that are not covered by Medicare.

The figures show there was also a $65 million fall in government tax breaks for health care after the threshold for the medical expenses tax rebate was lifted to $2000.

At the same time as patients are paying more for health care, the proportion of the health budget funded by governments is down from 69.9 per cent to 69.1 per cent.

While health expenditure grew to $140 billion a year , health expenditure as a percentage of GDP fell from 9.4 per cent to 9.3 per cent. As new health reform agreements took effect the federal government's share of public hospital funding started to grow again up from 39.8 per cent to 40.3 per cent.

State and territory governments share of public hospital expenditure was 49.5 per cent in 2010-11, down from 50.5 per cent  the estimated average level of recurrent expenditure on health was $5796 a person.

This is an absolute disgrace and all ministers must be held to account, especially when huge amounts of taxpayers funds are wasted on foreign aid, illegal refugees and politicians perks and overseas trips. You are all on notice at the next election.