The key findings from Chapter 4 are presented for each of the research questions explored:
What has been the rate of services provided and costs of Better Access services overall?
- Almost than 2.7 million Better Access services were provided in 2007; this grew to more almost 3.8 million services in 2008 (an annual increase of 40.6%) and to more than 4.6 million in 2009 (an annual increase of 23.2%). The total cost of these services to government, in terms of benefits paid, increased from $288.9 million in 2007 to $389.4 million in 2008 (an annual increase of 34.8%), and to $478.1 million in 2009 (an annual increase of 22.8%).
- More than half of all services were bulk–billed – 53.6% in 2007, 56.5% in 2008 and 58.6% in 2009. Of services for which a co–payment was made, the average co–payment was around $35.
- There was considerable variation in co–payment rates and average co–payments according to the type of provider who delivered the services. In 2009, only 7.3% of services delivered under the GP items involved a co–payment by the consumer, whereas up to two thirds of the services delivered under the Consultant Psychiatrist (63.7%), Psychological Therapy Services (65.4%) and allied health Focussed Psychological Strategies (57.4%) items did so.
- The average co–payment varied according to provider type, being lowest for GP items ($20), close to the overall average for Psychological Therapy Services items ($32) and allied health Focussed Psychological Strategies items ($37), and highest for Consultant Psychiatrist items ($82) in 2009. The percentage of services requiring a co–payment decreased by 10.8% between 2007 and 2009. For services requiring a co–payment, the average co–payment increased between 2007 and 2009 by 4.5%.
Do rates of co–payment for Better Access services vary across population subgroups?
- The proportion of services that were bulk–billed increased as the level of remoteness and level of relative socio–economic disadvantage increased. In 2009, the average copayment was highest among people in remote areas ($38) and people in capital cities ($37) than those in other regions ($31–$33). The average co–payment decreased as level of relative socio–economic disadvantage increased (from $38 to $33). Average copayments for most provider types were reasonably similar across most age groups, but tended to be somewhat lower for the older (65 years plus) age group.
- There were some variations in average co–payments according to socio–demographic characteristics and provider type. Most notably, average co–payments were: lower among people aged 65 years and over for GP, Psychological Therapy Services and Focussed Psychological Strategies items; lower for people aged < 15 years for Consultant Psychiatrist and Occupational Therapist services; higher among people in remote locations for GP, Psychological Therapy Services and Consultant Psychiatrist items; and lower among people in areas of greatest socio–economic disadvantage for GP services.