Can Alberta’s primary care networks provide any lessons for Medicare Locals?

Andrew Suchowersky, Oksana Suchowersky and Stephen J Duckett
Med J Aust 2012; 196 (1): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11109
Published online: 16 January 2012

Australia’s Medicare Locals are in a formative period, and any comparison so far has focused on the United Kingdom

The Australian and Canadian health systems share many similarities; one author has described them as “children of a common mother”.1 The fundamentals of the provision of primary care in both countries are the same: the overwhelming majority of “general practitioners” in Australia and “family physicians” in Canada work in independent practices, billing “Medicare” on a fee-for-service basis. The structure of family practice is similar, with a mix of solo and multiphysician practices. In Alberta, patients are not required to register with a single practice, but many family practices are not accepting new patients, and so registration with a practice is universally seen as desirable. There is no financial penalty (on the patient or the practice) for patients seeing a physician outside the practice in which they are registered. There are some differences; most notably that health care in Canada is essentially a provincial responsibility operating within overall parameters set by the Canada Health Act, and that “extra-billing” (billing above the schedule fee) is prohibited.

  • Andrew Suchowersky1
  • Oksana Suchowersky2
  • Stephen J Duckett2,3

  • 1 University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
  • 3 La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC.


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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