“Caution and care”: AMA urges against healthcare cuts

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon.

Doctors’ group calls on the new Health Minister to lift the Medicare freeze in its pre-budget submission for 2017-18

Launching the Australian Medical Association’s latest pre-budget submission over the weekend, president Dr Michael Gannon says Health Minister Greg Hunt should look at all health policies as “investments” in a healthier and more productive population.

“Health is the best investment that governments can make,” says Dr Gannon.

“The AMA agrees with and supports Budget responsibility. But we also believe that savings must be made in areas that do not directly negatively affect the health and wellbeing of Australian families.

“Health must be seen as an investment, not a cost or a budget saving.

“There are greater efficiencies to be made in the health system and in the health budget, but any changes must be undertaken with close consultation with the medical profession, and with close consideration of any impact on patients, especially the most vulnerable – the poor, the elderly, working families with young children, and the chronically ill.

“But the AMA urges caution – and care. The Government must not make long-term cuts for short-term gain. Patients will lose out.”

Dr Gannon says the first task of the new Minister must be to lift the freeze on Medicare patient rebates, which the AMA argues creates a “two-tier health system, where those who can afford to pay for their medical treatment receive the best care and those who cannot are forced to delay their treatment or avoid it altogether”.

“This Government’s decision to retain and extend its Medicare freeze is a regressive one that is hitting the most ill – especially those with chronic illness who need regular access to medical services, and the elderly and vulnerable patients in our community who already have lower levels of access to health services,” it says in its submission.

The AMA also calls on the Federal Government to:

  • Reverse cuts to public hospital funding;
  • Provide additional funding for the Health Care Homes trial;
  • Consult doctors throughout the entirety of the MBS review process and use the review to improve the MBS, not as a budgets savings measure;
  • Commit to ensuring any increase in the Medicare Levy is invested back into the health system;
  • Maintain affordability of private health insurance;
  • Substantially increase funding for quality end-of-life care;
  • Provide more funding to indigenous health services;
  • Develop and implement a National Mental Health Plan;
  • Develop a national obesity prevention strategy;
  • Instigate a sugar tax on soft drinks;
  • Prohibit the marketing of junk food to children;
  • Ensure every Australian has access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables;
  • Deliver a National Physical Activity Strategy;
  • Finalise the National Drug Strategy as a matter of priority; and
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions within a global carbon budget.

See the full AMA submission here.

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