Better bang needed for health buck

AHHA's 2019 Federal Election areas of focus
Thursday, May 2, 2019

‘We urge Health Minister Greg Hunt and Shadow Minister Catherine King to outline how they are going to get better bang for the health buck at today’s National Press Club debate’, says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

‘The Coalition, Labor, and the Greens are all promising welcome extra health dollars and reduced out-of-pocket costs for electors should they win government—but public commitment to getting better value for those dollars has been muted.

‘For example, do you really need that extra appointment with the doctor to renew a script or have a specialist referral updated? Do you really need to pay a GP to carry out a treatment or give an injection when a trained nurse can do it just as effectively? Why are some treatments still subsidised by Medicare when more effective evidence-based treatments are available? Why get that injury treated in hospital when it could be done just as well at your local primary care clinic for a fraction of the cost?

‘We need to shift the whole system to value-based healthcare—that is, better outcomes for patients relative to costs—or the right care in the right place at the right time by the right provider.

‘This will often involve teams of health professionals providing ongoing care for chronic conditions—this has been proven internationally to be more effective, more timely and better value than traditional care systems.

‘Integrated or “joined up” care driven by results is better for the patient than care driven by number of consultations attended and/or the size of the patient’s wallet.

‘To their credit, during its current term the Government initiated a review of all Medicare item numbers for relevance and effectiveness. Progress has been limited to date, but the review is ongoing.

‘The Government also initiated an inquiry into out-of-pocket costs—but included only one consumer representative in a sea of medical and private health interests. One proposed outcome of the inquiry—compelling specialists to publish their fees on a government website—while laudable, is yet to see the light of day.

‘The Government introduced the Health Care Home model of integrated care, which is a move toward value-based healthcare. But it failed to attract enough ‘buy-in’ from medical practitioners or consumers—in part because of insufficient funding and poor planning. The Coalition’s recently announced policy of rewarding GP practices for people over 70 signing up or registering with the practice for chronic disease care is a renewed step in the right direction. So is the commitment of both major parties to Primary Health Networks tasked with introducing innovative and value-based primary healthcare regimes tailored to local circumstances.

‘The $2.3 billion investment pledged by Labor to address out-of-pocket costs for people with cancer is a much-needed response to the significant and unexpected costs faced by many people with cancer. But, apart from a suggested oncology Medicare item number available only through bulk-billing of patients, there is little detail as yet on how the initiative will ensure real value for patients while sidestepping unnecessary low value care.

‘Labor’s proposed Health Reform Commission, and the Greens’ similar proposed single funding agency are encouraging signs of political will to achieve better value and less waste by ending the “blame game” between various levels of government—but we would like to see more concrete actions detailed in their policies.

‘As a nation we also need to invest in appropriate Australian research into best value care—AHHA has recently launched the Australian Centre for Value-Based Health Care to support this work.

‘We call on all parties and candidates to commit to better bang for the health buck—a revamped value-for-money health system focused on what matters to patients’, Ms Verhoeven said.

Visit the Australian Centre for Value-Based Health Care here. To follow AHHA commentary throughout the election campaign, visit

Media enquiries:  Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, AHHA

0403 282 501