Feature Articles

Markets and medicine: Financing the Australian healthcare system


In early 2010 the Commission on the Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century (the Commission) convened to outline a strategy for advancing healthcare towards a system that provides “universal coverage of the high quality comprehensive services that are essential to advance opportunity for health equity within and between countries.” [1] The strategy focuses on the education of health professionals to empower their capacity as agents of social transformation. [1] This paper endeavours to encourage medical students to think critically and ethically about the consequences of different modes of health finance on the equity of the Australian healthcare system. In doing so, it contributes to this project of health professionalism in the 21st century.

Health finance may seem of little relevance to aspiring or practicing health professionals. However, it is an important determinant of how and to whom medical services are delivered and a critical aspect of Australia’s response to the increasing resource demands of the healthcare system. Rising costs are attributable to a variety of trends including innovative but expensive technology, an ageing population, and increasing prevalence of lifestyle associated disease. Policy makers continue to debate the most effective funding methods to achieve effective use of resources, quality services and equity within the healthcare system…