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End of financial year Medicare figures released by the Department of Human Services indicate a steady increase in the average use of services per person.

Optometry Australia standards and research adviser Dr Patricia Kiely said there had been an incremental increase over many years.

‘We expect increased numbers because of growth in population but the increase is also due to a small but steady growth in the average use of services per person—or per 100,000 which is what Medicare uses—for many years now,’ Dr Kiely said.

Dr Kiely has analysed Medicare figures for more than a decade and said expenditure figures were also steadily increasing (Table).

‘The increased expenditure per person is mainly due to that increased service use since there was no increase in the Medicare rebate from when it was frozen in November 2012,’ she said.

There has been an increase in the total number of contact lens items in the 2013-2014 financial year, which differs from the previous trend. ‘The previous two years had shown decreases in the total numbers for these items,’ Dr Kiely said.

Dr Kiely pointed to children’s vision items as the largest area of growth. ‘The greatest percentage growth area was in the total number of the children’s vision item, which was 13.3 per cent more than the previous year.’

Private sector

The Department of Health has called for expressions of interest from the private sector to provide claims and payment services for Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Applications closed on 22 August.

The Department of Health currently contracts the Department of Human Services to manage claims and payment processes. In a statement issued by the Department of Health, it said the current IT systems were dated and in need of a substantial upgrade.

Medicare Services Rising - Table

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