More than $4 billion in health expenditure could be saved each year by addressing the health needs of low income earners, according to one of Australia's largest non-government healthcare providers.
A report released by Catholic Health Australia today (June 4) has revealed 60,000 hospital admissions could be prevented if the federal government were to introduce the World Health Organisation's (WHO) action plan on increasing the health of the unemployed outlined in 2008.
The study – titled The Cost of Inaction on the Social Determinants of Health – also found $273 million in Medicare rebates could be saved by introducing the changes, as well as 5.3 million fewer Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme scripts issued.
According to Catholic Health Australia chief executive officer Martin Laverty, the lowest 20 per cent of income earners suffer twice the amount of chronic illness than the highest 20 per cent.
"The social determinants of health – such as income level, housing status and educational attainment – are factors responsible for health inequities that result in 500,000 Australians having a chronic illness that could be avoided," he said.
While federal minister for social inclusion Mark Butler acknowledged the study, he asserted that Australians generally have a good standard of living compared to other countries.