Election 2022: Indigenous health faces a $4.4 billion funding gap: Equity Economics report

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According to a new report, an additional $4.4 billion per year is needed for Indigenous peoples to receive the same level of health care as the general population, including an additional $2.6 billion from the federal government.

The Equity Economics report, commissioned by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization (NACCHO), said the remaining funding gap largely reflected lower private health spending.

NACCHO chief executive Pat Turner said the shortfall shows the government has lost three years of opportunity to address the problem.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Given the barriers that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face in accessing private health care, it is important to recognize that this is part of the global gap and that Commonwealth, State and territories are filling this gap and working with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector and other partners to address it,” the report said.

The report estimates total recurrent spending on Indigenous health in 2019-20 to be $8.6 billion. This translated to $9,925 a year spent on health for each Indigenous person, compared to $7,365 for non-Indigenous Australians.

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While more was spent on Indigenous peoples, the report argued that the figure should be double the amount spent on non-Indigenous Australians, as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population suffered a burden of disease at 2.3 times the rate of the general population.

On that basis, per capita health spending for Indigenous peoples is projected to be $14,967 per year, or $5,042 more per person, he said. The report calculated the $4.4 billion figure by multiplying that gap by a projected Indigenous population of 863,576.

“These numbers are not intended to be used alone to determine resource allocation, and further analysis is needed to determine the varying costs across the country associated with delivering effective and efficient, comprehensive and culturally appropriate care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians,” the report mentioned.

“However, it is essential that we estimate the expenditure gap, as it helps us understand the extent of unmet need among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

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