AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler said tonight that the modest positive measures in the 2015 Health Budget have failed to overcome the lingering profound negative effects of the 2014 Budget.
A/Prof Owler says the AMA is surprised and disappointed that the review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule – with the clear inference that this would be a Budget savings exercise – was the centrepiece of the 2015 Health Budget.
“The GP co-payment may be gone, but the health system is still struggling with the impact of the freeze on Medicare patient rebates,” A/Prof Owler says.
“There is nothing in tonight’s Health Budget to indicate that the Government will restore public hospital funding, which was savagely cut in last year’s Budget.
“Instead, we were told tonight by the Secretary of the Department of Health that the MBS review would build on considerable savings already made by MBS review processes.
“The MBS exists to provide patient rebates and access to services.
“This move is against the Government’s assurances that the MBS review was not about Budget savings.”
A/Prof Owler says the AMA will seek urgent clarification from the Health Minister and Prime Minister about the objectives of the MBS review.
A/Prof Owler said the AMA was also concerned about the apparent lack of preventive health measures and funding in the Budget.
The AMA welcomes a range of other measures, including:
- e-health changes, including the myHealth Record, particularly the opt-out component;
- mental health plan;
- support for the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre;
- funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled health organisations;
- organ donation programs; and
- the Ice Action strategy.
A/Prof Owler says it is evident tonight that the health sector is not impressed with the withholding of Budget detail in the Health Budget lock-up.
“It was insulting to have the leaders of Australia’s health organisations locked in a room with no Budget detail,” A/Prof Owler says.