Australia has a high-quality health care system, with universal access to publicly funded and provided services augmented by a private health care system. In international comparisons Australia consistently does well, being ranked second overall by the Commonwealth Fund in 2017 and top in terms of health care outcomes[1].

Since our first submission for the 2021 Budget process we have had the COVID-19 pandemic infect over 24 million people worldwide and result in over 800,000 deaths. Here in Australia we have had around 25,000 cases and 525 deaths. [2] We have seen an extraordinary effort across our health system, economy, and community to minimise the impact of the coronavirus, both on the health and wellbeing of the community but also the economy. Whilst for much of Australia the crisis has been dealt with, at least in the short-term, it is becoming clearer that we will be living with COVID-19 for some time to come.

The health system has responded well to the crisis, with innovation across many areas of health service delivery moving to new models of care supported by changes to Government policy to facilitate this. The expansion of telehealth services, introduction of new virtual care services, fast tracking of e-prescriptions  and  expanded mental health services are just some of the ways the health system has moved to ensure people still get the health care they need. We have also seen a more collaborative approach between levels of Government to work together on solutions.

The pandemic has revealed many cracks in our society and economy including: the extent of casualisation of the workforce; growing income inequality; an inadequate income support system; and a digital divide which is leaving many people behind. It is those cracks that the 2020 Budget needs to start to address as they will widen and result in poorer health outcomes and even greater cost burden on health and human service systems if immediate action is not taken.

 We also need a longer-term vision for the health system and our society. The Federal Budget 2021 should lay out an agenda for the future including Government’s full response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care, the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health and the  long awaited 10 year Primary Health Care Plan and the National Preventive Strategy.

CHF has established a Consumer Commission to look at what the health system should look like beyond COVID-19.  Thirty of the best consumer advocate minds in the country have been examining what reforms have been implemented through the pandemic that should be kept, where the fault lines are, and what the policy response should be. The final report and recommendations from the Consumer Commission will not be completed in time to include in this submission but will form the basis of key reform ideas CHF puts to Government in the future, particularly for the Federal Budget 2021.


[1] Eric C. Schneider, Dana O. Sarnak, David Squires, Arnav Shah, and Michelle M. Doty, 2017 Mirror, Mirror 2017: International Comparison Reflects flaws and Opportunities for better US Health care, Commonwealth fund.

[2] Department of Health website 26/08/2020

Publication type: 
Publish date: 
Monday, August 31, 2020
Consumers Health Forum