Health a key focus as budget aims to ensure COVID response and confirm 7CPA funding
The 2020 Federal Budget, delivered by Treasurer Josh Frydenburg last night (5 October) is funding Australia’s emergency response plan and extending initial key COVID-19 health initiatives, the government says.
In his release on the budget, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government is “delivering a record $115.5 billion in 2020–21 and $467 billion over the forward estimates to deliver the essential health services Australians need under the Long Term National Health Plan.
The 2020–21 Budget funds the Government’s ongoing health response under the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan, extending initial key COVID-19 health initiatives.
It helps chart the road out, including through unprecedented mental health support, and implementation of our COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy,” the Minister said.
The government has committed more than $16 billion to the emergency health response to the pandemic, with aged care a particular focus, he said.
The budget also confirms the $18.3 billion committed to the five-year Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, signed in June.
“This ensures Australians continue to have access to more than 200 million subsidised PBS prescriptions each year through their pharmacy of choice and access to medication management programs focusing on the safe use of medicines,” Mr Hunt said.
“We are ensuring access to medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic by fast-tracking electronic prescribing ($5 million) and home delivery of medicines to protect vulnerable Australians ($25 million)”.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia executive director Suzanne Greenwood, writing in Guild newsletter Forefront welcomed the 7CPA confirmation.
Ms Greenwood also highlighted the “concentration of expenditure on the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
“The Budget also has a clear focus on the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of Australians. The Government has rightly declared mental health and suicide prevention as a national priority,” she said.
“Community pharmacies are the most accessible of all health destinations, and as such pharmacists and their staff play an important role in identifying and assisting patients with mental health issues. The allocation of more funding for mental health services broadly is welcomed by the Guild”.
Among the key health measures in the Budget are:
- A record $115.5 billion in health investment in 2020–21, up $11.5 billion on last year’s Budget, including more than $16 billion for the pandemic health response
- $41.5 billion for medicines funding over four years. This includes the creation of the PBS New Medicines Funding Guarantee which will deliver new funding each year for the listing of new medicines on the PBS, to be replenished annually to meet the expected cost of new and amended listings
- $3.3 billion for the National Medical Stockpile, Australia’s strategic reserve of time-critical and essential medical supplies
- $5.7 billion for mental health, including doubling of support under Better Access, from 10 to 20 Medicare-funded psychological services
- $2.3 billion investment in COVID-19 treatments and vaccines
- Funding for aged care boosted to $23.9 billion, up $2.2 billion
- A $230.8 million injection into sport and preventive health
- $18.6 million for the preparation of permanent telehealth infrastructure beyond 31 March 2021
The doubling of Medicare-funded psychological services from 10 to 20 through the Better Access Initiative, is being given an investment of $100.8 million.
“The Government recognises that the 2019–20 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly affected the mental health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities,” Mr Hunt said. “Through this Budget, we are continuing to ensure that support is available”.
There will be $76 million allocated for mental health support for Australians affected by the bushfire emergency. This includes distress and trauma counselling, additional Medicare-subsidised sessions, training and support for frontline emergency personnel, funding for Kids Helpline and Lifeline, and small grants to assist community recovery and connectedness and bolstering of headspace services in fire-affected areas.
COVID-19 related measures include funding of $74 million to create a new Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Line and boost the capacity of key mental health services, and $48.1 million to support the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan including delivering better data and modelling capacity.
The Government is providing $0.6 million to support people who suffer from migraines to improve management, and increase awareness of, migraines.
To see the full Health Department summary, go here