The Government’s MYEFO statement is another chapter in the Coalition’s consistent health policy since being elected – cut health funding and shift costs to patients, says AMA President Professor Brian Owler.
Prof Owler says the axing of the bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging services will increase the health cost burden for Australian families, with the poorest and the sickest being hit the hardest.
“These measures are simply resurrecting a part of the Government’s original ill-fated co-payment proposal from the 2014 Budget,” Prof Owler says.
“It is yet another co-payment by stealth.
“The Government is continuing to retreat from its core responsibilities in providing access to affordable, quality health services for the Australian people.
“Cutting Medicare patient rebates for important pathology and imaging services is another example of putting the Budget bottom line ahead of good health policy.
“These services are critical to early diagnosis and management of health conditions to allow people to remain productive in their jobs for the good of the economy.
“The AMA strongly opposes these measures, and we will be encouraging the Senate to disallow them.”
Prof Owler says the AMA welcomes the “belated” introduction of new MBS items for sexual health medicine services and addiction medicine services, which were recommended by the Medical Services Advisory Committee.
“These new items will provide better access to these services in the private sector, where currently most people need to wait for these services in public hospitals,” Prof Owler says.
Prof Owler says the health sector needs some detail and explanation from the Government on other unexpected cuts.
“The Government has announced savings of $146.0 million from redesigning 24 health programs covering population health, medical services, eHealth, and health workforce,” he says.
“And there is a further $31 million in savings over four years for public hospital services, again without explanation.
“All up, MYEFO has delivered another significant hit to the health budget with services and programs cut, and more costs being shifted on to patients.
“Continuing a worrying pattern, there has been no consultation with medical and health organisations about the nature and extent of these cuts.
“It does not fill us with confidence about the Government’s ongoing range of reviews, including the MBS Review, the Primary Care Review, and the review of the private health insurance sector.
“The Government is repeatedly cutting away at the Health budget despite there being no evidence of a health funding crisis.
“It is folly to frame health policy on the basis of outdated spending projections from the Commission of Audit,” Prof Owler says.
Other key MYEFO measures include:
- the abolition of the National Hospital Performance Authority (NHPA) and its highly valued health reporting arrangements;
- the abolition of the National Health Funding Body and Funding Pool ;
- extra money for the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program, which supports clinical training in rural areas; and
- $93.8 million is flagged for an integrated medical training pathway for rural areas.