Medicare milestones

See how Medicare has changed and developed with each milestone achievement.

1984 to 1994

    • The newly elected Hawke government moved quickly to re-establish a universal health insurance scheme. The introduction of Medicare includes restoring bulk billing and free public hospital treatment. It is funded by a 1% levy on taxable income.
    • Bill Hayden, the Minister for Social Security, opens the first Medicare office in Ipswich, Queensland, on 20 January 1984.
    • The Minister for Health, Dr Neal Blewett, describes Medicare as ‘a major social reform’ that aims ‘to produce a simple, fair, affordable insurance system that provides basic health cover to all Australians’.
    • By the end of June 1984, the Australian Government has issued 8 million Medicare cards covering 15.2 million people.
    • The Medicare safety net helps offset the cost of a new $2.50 patient co-payment, which is later withdrawn, while the safety net is retained. The OMSN, as it is now called, reimburses patients when they incur gap costs for out-of-hospital services above a set threshold.
    • The OMSN only applies to gap costs incurred by individuals (not families).
  • Electronic claiming is introduced for use by medical practitioners, members of the public and private health insurers over the intervening decades. 

    • The free-of-charge hotline is introduced. It allows people to talk to financial information service officers about options for their savings, investments and related arrangements.
    • Forty years later, this phone number remains active, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

1995 to 2004

    • The immunisation register is introduced to help improve the rate of age-appropriate immunisation. The register also informs parents and providers about a child's immunisation status. 
    • Details of vaccinations given to children under 7 years in Australia are recorded on the immunisation register and are available to immunisation providers and each child’s parent or guardian. 
    • Learn more at Services Australia.
    • The register provides a simple way for people to record their consent (or objection) to becoming organ and/or tissue donors. 
    • The register means authorised personnel can verify an individual’s consent (or objection) to donating organs and/or tissue for transplantation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week anywhere in Australia. 
    • From July 2005, the register becomes a consent register. Before this, only a person’s intention to donate was registered. 
    • Medicare online is introduced in 2002 to modernise processing claims and payments. 
    • Medical providers are able to lodge claims over the internet. This includes Medicare bulk bill, private patient and Department of Veteran Affairs claims. Medicare providers can also submit information to the Australia Childhood Immunisation Register. 
    • The safety net is expanded again to cover 80% of any additional out-of-pocket costs for out-of-hospital services once an annual threshold of patient spending is reached. This provides benefits to eligible individuals, couples and families that have high out-of-pocket medical costs. 
    • The Provider Directory System establishes a list of healthcare providers and healthcare organisations registered in the Healthcare Identifiers service. This allows users to search for organisations, contacts and specialty details of healthcare providers published in the directory.
    • The Electronic Claim Lodgement and Information Processing Service Environment (ECLIPSE) improves the claims process for in-hospital patients covered by both Medicare and a private health fund. ECLIPSE securely links registered health benefit organisations, medical practitioners, hospitals, billing agents and Medicare Australia to help patients to lodge claims and pay accounts. 

2005 to 2014

    • Medicare online accounts allows patients to manage their details and claims easily online. It also allows them to view statements and receive letters online.
    • Agents and access points are established for people in rural, regional and remote areas to get help with Medicare. Agents help an individual conduct their business using free self-service facilities, while access points provide free self-service facilities. Find your nearest agent or access point
    • The Better Access Scheme aims to improve the treatment and management of mental illness in the Australian community by providing subsidised mental health care to Australian residents. Under this scheme, general practitioners, paediatricians and psychiatrists with a Medicare provider number can refer patients to eligible allied health practitioners for mental health treatment under Medicare. 
    • Easyclaim is introduced as an alternative to Medicare online, which by 2007 is seen to be costly. 
    • Easyclaim is designed to provide real-time approval of claims and payments using EFTPOS technology at the health service.
    • The Australian Government pays the financial institutions involved 23c per transaction.  
    • HPOS is managed by the Department of Human Services and provides health professionals with a dedicated web portal. This gives real-time access to online services provided by the department, including looking up or verifying a patient’s Medicare number. 
    • HPOS is introduced to ensure that, in an emergency, people can get treatment even if they do not have their Medicare card. It allows a health provider to acquire a card number from a name and date of birth.
    • HPOS is used 45,000 times per day across Australia.
    • The Department of Human Services is part of the Australian Government’s service delivery reform to make it easier for Australians to get the services they need in a way that suits them. 
    • The services co-located offices helps boost the number of Medicare sites from 240 to more than 500. 
    • The Department of Human Services works with local people and services to identify and support some of the most disadvantaged people in our community.
    • Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support can now be managed through self-service portals online. 
    • From 1 July 2012, roughly a third of Medicare Service Centres across the country stop paying cash claims in their service centres. These changes are eventually made in every service centre across the country. 
    • Claims are made by electronic funds transfer (EFT) or by swiping a debit card. 
    • People can use the Medicare online and phone services (132 011) to complete their claim without attending a service centre. 
    • The Department of Human Services develops mobile applications to meet customer demand for convenient and flexible access to services. 
    • The applications allow customers to complete many of their most common transactions quickly and easily from any location – without having to phone or visit a service centre. 

2015 to 2024

    • PRODA provides an online, real-time, self-service identity or organisation verification and authentication service for business-related interaction with government online services. 
    • PRODA is introduced to the healthcare community with secure access to Medicare online services. 
    • As part of the registration process, PRODA validates information from Australian-issued identity records.
    • The AIR details all publicly funded vaccinations and most privately purchased vaccines given to people of all ages who live in Australia.
    • It was set up in 1996 as the ACIR and is renamed following its expansion in 2016. 
    • Data on adult vaccination coverage from the AIR is reported for the first time in 2021. 
    • The Health Delivery Modernisation program strengthens primary health care through new digital health services and by modernising the health payments system. 
    • The Department of Human Services is replaced with an executive agency named Services Australia on 1 February 2020.
    • Services Australia supports Australians by delivering high-quality, accessible services and payments on behalf of the Australian Government. It aims to simplify government services, such as Medicare and Centrelink, so people across Australia can get on with their lives.
    • Find out more at Services Australia.
    • COVID-19 digital vaccination certificates and international COVID-19 vaccination certificates became available through the Express Plus Medicare application. 
    • Customers can link their myGov and Medicare online services to get their proof of vaccination. This is a free and secure way to prove an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination history. 
    • The Australian Government releases the Strengthening Medicare taskforce report in December 2022.
    • The report sets out significant reforms to strengthen Medicare and rebuild general practice.
    • The taskforce’s purpose was to recommend what could be done immediately to strengthen Medicare using the $750 million Strengthening Medicare Fund. It was also tasked with providing recommendations for longer-term reform and investment in the primary care system.
    • The Australian Government establishes a national network of free, walk-in Medicare UCCs to give more Australians local access to quality health care.
    • There are 58 clinics around the country. This gives families more options to see a doctor or nurse when they need care for urgent but not life-threatening illnesses or injuries. 
    • Medicare UCCs allow people to walk in without an appointment or referral. They provide bulk-billed urgent and convenient health care.
    • Medicare UCCs help reduce pressure on hospitals and emergency departments, allowing them to focus on more urgent and life-threatening conditions.
    • Find out more about Medicare Urgent Care Clinics.
    • MyMedicare allows all patients with a Medicare card or Veteran card to register with a participating general practice for better continuity of care and access to longer telehealth consultations. 
    • MyMedicare will deliver more tailored care to patients, improve health outcomes and help keep patients healthy and out of hospital. 
    • Find out more about MyMedicare
    • Medicare celebrates 40 years on 1 February 2024. To acknowledge the milestone, Services Australia launches a special commemorative Medicare card for all new cards printed in 2024. 
    • The card features a refresh of the Medicare brand, along with a commemorative 40-year anniversary icon
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