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Changes to Medicare on the cards

27 October 2011 - 1:12pm

Medicare may require some changes to its system to ensure it continues to provide adequate support, according to the federal government.

Health minister Nicola Roxon floated the idea yesterday, speaking at a conference in Melbourne for the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia.

Medicare has remained largely unchanged since its inception 27 years ago and now costs an estimated $17 billion a year.

''To keep it working well for patients into the future, maybe doctors and the community at large will need to consider how they can play a role in keeping the Medicare Benefits Scheme up to date and sustainable,'' Ms Roxon said.

Finance minister Penny Wong also commented that the government's attempts to means test the private health insurance tax rebate were aimed at dealing with a system that was ''clearly not equitable''.

Currently, the Medicare Levy Surcharge is applied to Australian taxpayers who do not have private hospital cover and earn over $80,000 ($160,000 for couples). Overseas students and those holding a 457 visa are also required to be covered by private health insurance in order to cover any medical costs.