Improvements in Indigenous health expenditure

There have been improvements in expenditures on health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by all levels of government, according to a report published today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

Expenditure on health services for Indigenous Australians from government and private sources rose by at least 15% per person between 1995-96 and 1998-99. This compares with the 10% per person increase in non-Indigenous health spending over the same period.

Expenditures on Health Services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, 1998-99 shows that per person health spending on ndigenous people in that year was $3,065 compared with $2,518 for non-Indigenous people, a ratio of 1.22 to 1.

AIHW health economist and report co-author John Goss said that the figure for Indigenous health spending was not much higher, especially given the comparatively poor health of Indigenous people.

'Indigenous mortality rates are three times that of the general community-Indigenous people die on average 20 years younger than the average for all Australians.

'Public expenditure on health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was similar to that for non-Indigenous people in low-income groups. The health of low-income groups is relatively poor, but Indigenous people have the lowest incomes and the worst health. The median weekly income of Indigenous men, at $189, is less than half of the figure for non-Indigenous men.'

'One must also factor in the higher cost of providing services in remote and very remote areas, where 27.5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live, compared with 2.6% of the total population.

The report shows that Indigenous people are low users of mainstream health programs such as Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Specific Indigenous programs offset this to some extent. Indigenous people are high users of State government programs such as public hospitals and community health services.

Mr Goss said difficulties remained in identifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health expenditure in the available statistics.

'Consequently we often had to use surveys and other estimation techniques, which are not as accurate as using primary data', Mr Goss said.

23 August 2001

Further information: Mr John Goss, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1151
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032