Private psychiatry and Medicare: Regional equality of access in Australia
Background: Private psychiatric services are produced and consumed on a fee-for-service (FFS) basis in Australia. The Commonwealth Government subsidises these (and all) medical services via Medicare, a universal, comprehensive, tax-financed medical and hospital financing mechanism. A key purpose of Medicare is to improve equality of access to medical services. Aims: To measure the distribution of "access", as measured by utilization, to private FFS psychiatric services at a regional level; and to determine the temporal trend in equality in regional access to these services during the Medicare period. Method: Conventional measures of statistical dispersion and economic inequality (the coefficient of variation, Gini coefficient and the Atkinson measure) are applied to quarterly time-series data on quantities of private psychiatric services for Australia's regions since 1984. Equations are modelled statistically on the distributional data generated by applying these measures. Lorenz curves are also constructed. Results: The negative sign on the slope coefficients in all estimated equations, i.e., for each measure of the distribution, is statistically significant, but the slope coefficients are nearly zero. Conclusions: These preliminary results suggest relatively intractable movement in alleviating inequality in the private psychiatric services produced and consumed in Australia, at the broad level of the region, during two decades of Medicare subsidies.
Journal of Mental Health