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Chapter 3: Funding Australian general practice care

3.1 Government contribution to patient services

Despite the vast majority of patient care being provided in the general practice sector, most government expenditure on health continues to be dedicated to the hospital system (Figure 33). The percentage of total government health expenditure on hospitals continues to increase each year, while the percentage spent on primary care has gradually declined (Figure 34).

Australian government expenditure on health as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) is lower than other developed countries with primary care focused systems.46

Total government (state/territory and federal) expenditure on general practice services is around 7.5% of health expenditure.*,47

Expenditure per person on general practice was $391 in 2018–19, a decrease in real terms from $395 per person in 2017–18.30

Figure 33. Government expenditure on general practice services is overshadowed by spending on all other areas of the health system

Government expenditure on general practice services is overshadowed by spending on all other areas of the health system

Measure: Total government (state/territory and federal) and non-government expenditure on health, by area of expenditure, 2017–18
Data source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Health expenditure Australia 2017–18. Health and welfare expenditure series no. 65. Cat. No. HWE 77. Canberra: AIHW, 2019.

Government funding for general practice has fallen from $395 to $391 per person since 2017–18 30

Figure 34. The proportion of government health expenditure directed to primary care is declining

The proportion of government health expenditure directed to primary care is declining

Measure: Government expenditure on primary care and hospital services, 2012–13 to 2017–18
Data source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Health expenditure Australia 2017–18. Health and welfare expenditure series no. 65. Cat. No. HWE 77. Canberra: AIHW, 2019.

  • Calculated using 2017–18 dollars for total expenditure on general practice, against 2017–18 total expenditure on health.
  • 30. Productivity Commission. Report on government services. Canberra: Productivity Commission, 2020.
  • 46. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD. Stat: Health expenditure and financing. Paris: OECD, 2020.
  • 47. Productivity Commission. Report on government services 2019. Canberra: Productivity Commission, 2019.

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