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OVERVIEW OF USE OF MBS SERVICES
PERSONS AGED 45 YEARS AND OVER WHO USED MBS SUBSIDISED SERVICES IN 2015-16
Type of service(a)
AGE AND SEX
In general, the proportion of people who used MBS services in 2015-16 increased with age. More than nine in ten people in the Study cohort aged 75-84 years used pathology services (92% and 93% for collection and tests respectively), while around three quarters (72%) saw a specialist and around two thirds (68%) used diagnostic imaging services.
Proportionally more women in the Study cohort than men used individual MBS services in 2015-16, with the largest differences being for diagnostic imaging services (58% of women compared with 51% of men) and pathology collection and tests (both 84% for women, and 77% and 78% respectively for men). Slightly more than half (52%) of women saw a specialist compared with slightly less than half (48%) of men. These differences can be attributed to:
SELF-ASSESSED HEALTH AND NUMBER OF LONG-TERM HEALTH CONDITIONS
Study participants were asked to rate their health on a 5-point scale ranging from excellent to poor, and to identify particular health conditions they had (for example, diabetes or heart disease). Proportionally more people who rated their health as being fair or poor used MBS services in 2015-16 than people who rated their health more favourably. Similarly, proportionally more people with 3 or more health conditions used individual MBS services than people with fewer health conditions.
Variation in the use of health services across geographies may reflect the different demographic characteristics of these areas (for example, their age structures) as well as other factors such as the availability of particular health services. For example, in the absence of MBS subsidised specialist services a person may access specialist services as a public patient in a public hospital. Similarly a person may obtain treatment from a hospital emergency department if a GP service is not available.
Use of MBS services across the states and territories broadly reflected that of Australia overall. Across jurisdictions, the proportion of people in the Study cohort who used pathology services in 2015-16 ranged between 73% and 83%, followed by diagnostic imaging (49%-58%) and specialist visits (41%-55%). Use of specialists amongst the Study cohort was highest in New South Wales (with 55% of people having at least one specialist visit in 2015-16) and lowest in Western Australia and the Northern Territory (both 41%).
Across Remoteness Areas, use of individual MBS services was generally highest in Major Cities and lowest in remote areas of Australia. Of people in the Study cohort living in Major Cities, just over one half (52%) had seen a specialist in 2015-16, compared with two in five people in Very Remote areas (40%). Similarly, differences were apparent for diagnostic imaging and other allied health services. People in more remote areas often have poorer access to health care services2 and may receive primary health care services that are not captured by MBS.
Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage
While patterns of use of MBS services in 2015-16 were broadly consistent across areas of disadvantage in Australia, people in the Study cohort living in areas of least disadvantage (quintile 5; see Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas in the Glossary) had slightly higher use of specialist services (55%) compared with the rest of Australia (between 48% and 49% for quintiles 1-4). Conversely, people living in areas of greater disadvantage (quintile 1) had higher use of other allied health services than people living in areas of least disadvantage (24% compared with 15% respectively) as well as higher use of practice nurses (12% compared with 5% respectively).
PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE
Study participants were asked whether they had private health insurance. More than half (54%) of people with private health insurance had seen a specialist in 2015-16 compared with 43% of people who did not have private health insurance. Conversely, proportionally fewer people with private health insurance used other allied health services than people who did not have private health insurance (16% compared with 25% respectively).
1. Australian Government Department of Health Medical Services Advisory Committee, 2016, 'What is the MBS and Medicare?' Factsheet, viewed 5 November 2018, http://www.msac.gov.au/internet/msac/publishing.nsf/content/factsheet-03
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australia’s health 2016. Australia’s health series no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199. Canberra: AIHW.
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