Commonwealth must take long-term view of health funding

Friday, February 5, 2016

In its pre-Budget submission the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) calls on the Commonwealth Government to take a long term view to health funding and reform and to better target and organise existing health infrastructure.

“The AHHA recognises the Government’s commitment to fiscal repair, but it is important that short‑term measures do not have long reaching adverse consequences for the health of Australians,” AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said.

“It is vital that health policy not be merely viewed through the prism of budgetary cycles. In the field of healthcare, imprudent savings made in the current budget cycle can manifest in poorer individual health outcomes and an increased burden on the healthcare system in the future.”

The AHHA’s submission recommended a number of key actions, among them that no further cuts to health expenditure should be made until current review processes are completed.

“There are multiple review processes underway throughout the health sector and it is vital that any reforms that come out of these reviews are considered as part of a coordinated approach to the delivery of care across the primary, acute, aged and disability care sectors,” Ms Verhoeven said.

“Primary Health Networks are well placed to drive system change and better integration, and to drive uptake and continued utilisation of new tools in eHealth. But they must have adequate funding to carry out their core functions and meet community needs. For hospitals, reform options must include sustainable funding – growth funding based on population and CPI increases to be implemented from 2017-18 is significantly short of requirements, as demonstrated in the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services.”

The most recent healthcare expenditure data shows that in the five years to 2013-14, Commonwealth spending on health expenditure grew 2.8%, but individuals’ share of expenditure grew to 6.5%.

“The Commonwealth must ensure its health funding and reform measures do not further exacerbate rising out‑of-pocket costs, which disproportionately affect the disadvantaged and the chronically unwell,” Ms Verhoeven said.

Most of the AHHA’s recommended budget measures and policy directions in its submission do not call for extra funding, but rather more efficient and better targeted use of current funding, along with better organisation of Australia’s existing healthcare system.

“We welcome the opportunity to submit this list of recommendations in advance of the 2016-17 Commonwealth Government Budget,” Ms Verhoeven said.

“We call on Government to consider these recommendations and work to ensure the budget provides for a sustainable, accessible and equitable health system delivering quality outcomes for all Australians.”

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