Wise budget should ensure health and wealth

As the Turnbull Government talks of the importance of innovation to all sectors of the economy, it is time to ask what of innovation in healthcare?

Released today, the Consumer’s Health Forum submission to the Federal Budget provides ideas on where we need to centre the debate: investments in prevention, primary health care, new ways of keeping pressure off hospitals and infrastructure that will drive a truly peoplecentred health system.

Instead of short-range strategies that see cuts in health as a federal debt-reduction strategy, we need a long-term health plan that looks at how we distribute and get better value out of our existing health dollar, as well as where we need to make wise investments in health as a nation, the Consumers Health Forum says.

“Australia will only end the cycle of constantly rising health cost pressures by taking an investment approach to innovation to improve health care and the productivity of our population,” says the Chief Executive Officer of CHF, Leanne Wells.

“The freeze on Medicare rebates for GP services, the $650 million cuts to Medicare spending on pathology and diagnostic imaging and separate measures increasing the costs of some medications announced last month will particularly hit those with chronic illness. Deeper pain looms unless the Commonwealth and States can resolve the plan to cut $57 billion in hospital funding”.

“Australia is a prosperous nation and spends a modest proportion of its GDP on health by developed world standards. According to the AIHW, there has been a general slowdown in health spending and growth in the Federal Government’s share of this spending has also declined in recent years.

“At the moment the squeeze on public health care is resulting in the emergence of a twotiered health system. There is prompt care for those who can afford private hospitals, while those without wait in pain and declining health.

“In the Consumers Health Forum submission, we make suggestions for how we can stimulate innovation in health. We need to bolster our primary health care system – the front line of healthcare for all Australians – if we are to halt the emergence of two-class health care and achieve a sustainable, affordable system. These include:

  • Reverse the proposed $57 billion cut from hospital funding over the next ten years alongside an examination with the States and Territories of where we can get most value from its restoration such as more sub-acute services, transitional care services and other forms hospital avoidance services
  • Press ahead with primary health care reforms to ensure more comprehensive and effective care for those with chronic and complex conditions  Remove the freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule rebate for primary health care
  • Reform the private health insurance arrangements to require health funds to produce simple, standardised and comparable policies or forego the health insurance rebate
  • Reverse decisions to increase co-payments for PBS subsidised medications and PBS safety net thresholds still outstanding from the 2014 Budget
  • Introduce a tax on sugary drinks and a volumetric tax on alcohol
  • Develop and fund a national obesity strategy that looks at diet and physical activity
  • Commit to a national oral health plan to ensure access to dental services for those on low incomes
  • Provide adequate support to ensure consumers are represented and can participate in decisionmaking for health reforms
  • Measures to enhance our knowledge of what works in healthcare including the establishment of a Consumer Health Research Centre, so we can make wiser health investments”.

“Rather than make more cuts to health, the Government must let the current series of health reviews reach their conclusions. To date these have involved the participation of clinicians and consumers and could show the way to a better health system that improves care of chronic illness, reduces waste and make choice of health care more consumer-friendly.

“Now is the time for investment in innovation,” Ms Wells concluded.

Read CHF's full submission to the 2016-17 Federal budget here.

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Media contact

Mark Metherell

Em.metherell@chf.org.au
T:  02 6273 5444 
M: 0429 111 986