Health funding targeted where it’s most needed

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The ALP’s announcement that it will reverse cuts to bulk billing incentives for diagnostic imaging and pathology is a positive measure which will ensure patients can continue to access essential tests without being confronted with high out-of-pocket costs, says Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.

When the cuts to bulk billing incentives were announced in the 2015-16 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook measures by the Turnbull Government, the private pathology and diagnostic imaging sectors made it clear that it would be patients who would bear the pain of increased costs. This had the potential to result in many people putting off tests they need but can’t afford (with potentially worse health outcomes and greater costs for the health system), and more people seeking these tests through the already financially challenged public system.

Subsequent deals made in the past few weeks between the Health Minister and private sector pathology and diagnostic imaging providers will do little to ensure patients continue to receive affordable care, although they have appeased business owners.

“More than 20 million diagnostic imaging procedures are performed each year in Australia, to diagnose and manage conditions ranging from bone fractures to cancer, stroke and heart disease. It’s important that the health sector ensures referrals for these services are warranted, and it’s equally important that these services remain affordable and accessible to all people who need them, not just those who can afford to pay out-of-pocket costs,” says Ms Verhoeven.

“The reversal proposed by the ALP is a more sustainable, patient-centred solution than the rent deals and short-term reviews proposed by the Coalition.”

“The available pot of money to spend on health is limited, and expenditure must be targeted where it is most needed,” says Ms Verhoeven.

“Investments proposed this weekend by the ALP in community-based preventive health are a valuable measure, guided by strategy and underpinned by evidence. The strong focus on primary care and prevention, supported by measures such as the reversal of cuts to bulk billing incentives, ending the GP rebate freeze, and ensuring public hospitals are funded for growth, helps make the most out of the limited health funding available. Importantly, it helps ensure that Australians have equitable and affordable access to world-class healthcare, part of the essential infrastructure for a productive economy.”

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