This report presents estimates on health expenditure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their non-Indigenous counterparts for 2008–09. It is the sixth report in the series, which started in 1998 for the 1995–96 expenditure year, and builds on the information contained in previous reports.

In 2008–09, health expenditure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was estimated at $3,700 million, amounting to 3.5% of Australia’s total health expenditure in that year. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population comprised 2.5% of the Australian population.

Per person health expenditure

  • In 2008–09, average health expenditure per Indigenous Australian was $6,787, compared with $4,876 for each non-Indigenous Australian. This represents a per person ratio of 1.39—that is, $1.39 was spent on health per Indigenous Australian for every $1.00 spent per non-Indigenous Australian.
  • This ratio (1.39) was an increase from 1.31 in 2006–07. Some of this increase may be due to improvements to the accuracy and quality of the estimates in this report.

Public versus private services

  • Relative to the non-Indigenous population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are high users of publicly provided services (such as public hospital and community health services) and low users of medical, pharmaceutical, dental and other health services that are, for the most part, privately provided (such as specialists).
  • Community health services, including those provided by the Australian Government-funded Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, accounted for 22.2% of all Indigenous health expenditure in 2008–09, compared with just 4.5% of all non-Indigenous health expenditure.
  • In 2008–09, per person expenditure on public hospital services for Indigenous Australians was more than double that for non-Indigenous Australians (2.25). In comparison, the expenditure ratios for benefits paid through the Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme were 0.57 and 0.74 respectively.

Funding sources

  • The Australian Government (43.0%) and the state and territory governments (48.0%) combined funded 91.0% of the total health expenditure for Indigenous Australians in 2008–09. The non-government sector (including out-of-pocket payments) funded 9.0%.
  • For non-Indigenous Australians, the Australian Government (45.0%) and the state and territory governments (24.5%) funded 69.5% of the total health expenditure. Non-government sources funded the remaining 30.5%.