AHHA welcomes Greg Hunt as new Health Minister

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

‘We congratulate Greg Hunt on his appointment as Health Minister, and very much look forward to working with him’, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said today.

Mr Hunt’s permanent appointment as Minister for Health, and Minister for Sport, was announced this morning by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

‘Greg Hunt is seen by his peers as a safe pair of hands, and a good performer. We are hoping that he will bring to the job a coordinated and considered approach to health policy, supporting a strong public sector as well as the private system, but always having regard to equity and affordability for patients.

‘Unfortunately, some policy decisions in the recent past, designed to streamline the system and save money, for example the freeze on Medicare rebates, have had their own side-effects of significant increases in out-of-pocket costs, and patients delaying seeking medical care as a result.

‘Delays in seeking care can lead to higher costs later on for the health system if that patient presents later in a worse state of health through lack of medical attention’, Ms Verhoeven said.

‘The positive Health Care Homes primary care reform initiated by the former Minister Sussan Ley will continue, but there are also substantial associated risks with this, including the funding of the program, its design, and its supporting e-health and data infrastructure.

‘Mr Hunt must consider these issues as the 2017–18 budget is formulated. The Health Care Homes reform must deliver positive results for governments, health services and consumers, or it will go the way of previous primary care reform attempts.

‘In addition to primary care reforms, private health insurance reforms are pressing—neither the government (via its subsidisation of private health insurance premiums), nor consumers, are getting value for money, and a proposed rise in premiums is up for consideration in the immediate future.

‘An agreement with the states and territories on public hospital funding beyond 2020 also requires urgent attention. Further, public dental funding is woeful and there is almost no preventive health agenda—both of which have long term consequences for individual health and wellbeing, as well as for overall health expenditure.

‘Healthcare and hospitals are crucial services for all of us, while also being resource-intensive for the nation.

‘The best leaders in health, in fact the best leaders generally, are genuinely consultative and collaborative, and good negotiators. They draw on robust evidence in making decisions; and ensure that their decisions are aligned to an overarching vision and strategy, and to stakeholder and electorate values.

‘Any Minister taking this approach will almost certainly avoid most of the hard lessons learned by previous health ministers.

‘It’s also pleasing that Ken Wyatt has been given formal ministerial responsibility for Indigenous health, and we look forward to his leadership in this most important and concerning area.’

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, Primary Health Networks, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community.

For more information on AHHA, visit http://ahha.asn.au.

Media enquiries: Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, 0403 282 501