Medicare was introduced by the Commonwealth Government in 1984 to provide eligible Australian residents with affordable, accessible and high-quality healthcare. Medicare is based on the understanding that all Australians should contribute to the cost of healthcare according to their ability to pay. It is financed through progressive income taxation and an income-related Medicare levy.

Medicare Australia publishes a wide range of educational materials on its website for health providers.

The Commonwealth Government also publishes educational materials about primary care MBS item numbers on its website.

Relevance to community health

  • Models supporting effective chronic disease management and mental health care are of particular relevance to the community health sector, because a high proportion of community health clients have chronic and complex conditions and comorbidities.
  • The case for integration across the sector is now stronger than ever before, with the state and Commonwealth governments focusing on better coordinated management of chronic and complex conditions in a strengthened primary healthcare sector. MBS item numbers support integrated models of care that include general practice and other private providers.

Service models using MBS

  • Community health services should work in conjunction with Primary Health Networks and clients to determine which models are suitable. These decisions should be based on a local needs analysis of client characteristics, the availability of local services and providers with whom models of care can be built, the likely future impact on currently funded client services, and existing strategies and programs in the region.
  • It is important to identify the client's usual GP and strengthen relationships, communication and identify pathways with general practice to encourage their active participation in coordinated care.
  • The implementation of multidisciplinary models of care that incorporate MBS services is relevant to all community health services, whether or not they manage medical clinics.
  • Community health agencies should seek legal advice to ensure that any new service models are compliant with s19(2) of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (Cwlth).
  • Models adopted should not result in a reduction of state-funded allied health services.
  • Services funded through the MBS are in addition to services funded by the Department of Health's Integrated Care Branch. As the funding source is different, MBS-funded services should not be included by community health services as part of their reporting for branch-funded activities.

Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access Medicare

Medicare Australia has a communication strategy to help increase access to Medicare and other programs by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For information and support, call the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Access Line on 1800 556 955 or see the Medicare website's Indigenous Access Program section.