Australians want universal healthcare and for their Government to defend it

AHHA's 2019 Federal Election areas of focus
Thursday, April 18, 2019

‘Whoever is in government after the May 2019 federal election must provide strong and strategic leadership if we want a fair healthcare system for all Australians regardless of where they live or their ability to pay’, says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

‘For more than 30 years, Medicare and a strong public hospital sector have provided universal access to healthcare, but mounting financial strain and increasing demand are undermining this system.

‘Uncoordinated reforms and an absence of any agreed overarching strategy is severely testing universal healthcare in Australia. As the system’s steward, the Australian Government must work with state and territory governments to address these challenges and to preserve effective and efficient universal healthcare.

‘We need action on out-of-pocket costs for patients to ensure they are transparent and affordable. We pay about 20 per cent of health costs out-of-pockets—a much higher share than many other countries.

‘AHHA welcomes the Coalition’s commitment to a national strategy to tackle excessive out-of-pocket costs charged by medical specialists. Transparency of information about costs will help reduce ‘bill shock’ although more needs to be done to reduce those out-of-pocket costs.

‘AHHA welcomes Labor’s pledge to reduce out-of-pocket costs and waiting times specifically for people with cancer through a $2.3 billion investment. A diagnosis of cancer should not mean having to meet unexpected medical bills of many thousands of dollars a year or long waiting periods for care. The proposed national standard for informed financial consent would be a positive step forward.

‘For many people living in rural and remote Australia, gaining access to timely care, especially specialist care, can be difficult. And, in some specialty areas, waiting times for care in the public system can be very long.

‘Oral health is fundamental to overall health, wellbeing and quality of life, but it continues to be overlooked. It’s time to reverse the massive cuts to adult public dental services made by the Coalition over the past few years. We also need to act now to fluoridate every community’s water supply in order to prevent costly dental procedures in the near future.

‘AHHA applauds the Coalition’s commitment to invest in mental health, including to address youth suicide. But the particular needs of young Aboriginal people must be part of this investment. And the lack of additional investment in harm minimisation and treatment services for alcohol and drug use is another disappointing gap.

‘Private health insurers receive more than $6 billion of taxpayers’ money from the Government every year, and premiums continue to rise faster than inflation—often with reduced reimbursements for policy-holders. AHHA support’s Labor’s proposed Productivity Commission review of this massive spend to ensure it represents good value for taxpayers is long overdue.

‘The Coalition’s awareness program announced to support implementation of the gold, silver and bronze categories is not much more than window-dressing.

‘Regardless of who forms government, all political parties should keep in mind a commitment to an effective, contemporary universal healthcare system is a commitment to a healthy Australia’, Ms Verhoeven said.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services. 

To follow AHHA commentary throughout the election campaign, visit You can also follow our #AusVotes2019 #AusVotesHealth commentary on Twitter by following @AusHealthcare.

Media enquiries:  

Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, AHHA

0403 282 501