This report outlines trends in the use of Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) funded services over time, including examining the proportion of the fees charged by providers that are subsidised through the MBS as opposed to being paid via patient contributions or other arrangements. Like the MBS funded services dashboard, this report focuses on two key measures (calculated on a monthly and annual basis):

  • The number of MBS services per person in the population. Referred to as the MBS services rate or services rate.
  • The proportion of the fees charged by providers that were subsidised through the MBS as opposed to being paid through patient contributions (for example, by out-of-pocket payments or private health insurance). This measure is referred to as the MBS subsidy rate or subsidy rate.

Australians are using more MBS services than in the past

Between February 1984 (when the MBS was established) and March 2023, there has generally been an increase in the number of MBS services per Australian each year, however the services rate appears to have declined over recent months.

In the calendar year 2022, each person accessed an average of 17.8 MBS funded services. GP visits and pathology services (such as having a blood test) were the most common services used, with each person receiving an average of 6.8 MBS subsidised GP attendances per person over the course of 2022 and accessing an average of 6.4 pathology services per person.

What proportion of fees are subsidised through the MBS?

The proportion of provider fees subsidised by the Australian Government through the MBS (the MBS subsidy rate) has fluctuated over time. In the 15 years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it remained relatively stable at around 79% of total provider fees.

In the first years of the pandemic, the rate increased in association with a number of measures, such as an increase in the incentives that encourage GPs not to charge out-of-pocket fees and the rollout of the vaccination program.

In the most recent period, the MBS subsidy rate has reduced rapidly to below levels previously seen. In February 2023, 73% of provider fees were subsidised by the government through the MBS – the lowest proportion since the establishment of the MBS.

A higher proportion of costs are subsidised through the MBS for some services. GPs and pathology services have the highest MBS subsidy rates - averaging 89% and 95% respectively during 2022. Anaesthetics and obstetrics had the lowest subsidy rate, averaging 40% and 39% during 2022.

People in more remote areas use fewer MBS services, but have a higher subsidy rate

In 2022, people in Major cities used an average of 18.3 services per person, while people in Very remote areas used an average of 8.5 services.

In the same year, people in Major cities had 76% of their fees subsidised through the MBS, whereas the subsidy rate was 85% in Very remote areas. This remoteness pattern has been consistent between 2001 and 2023.

People in lower socioeconomic areas also generally have a higher subsidy rate. In 2022, the lowest socioeconomic areas had a subsidy rate of 84% of fees, compared with 72% in the highest socioeconomic areas. This pattern has been consistent since 2001.