Our call to political leaders: Don’t erode universal healthcare

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) calls on all parties seeking election on 2 July to publicly commit unequivocal support to universal healthcare in Australia.

“Australia’s public healthcare system is being severely tested by uncoordinated reforms along with mounting financial pressures and increasing demand,” AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said.

“Although Australians have had access to universal health care for more than 30 years, our system is not immune to pressures such as an ageing population, a growing burden of chronic disease and escalating healthcare costs associated with new technology and treatments. Strong and strategic leadership is needed from the Australian Government to address these challenges together with the state and territory governments to preserve universal healthcare”

“While bulk-billing rates for GP services are currently relatively high, they are not an accurate measure of inequality in the health system, and the current Medicare freeze in general practice disproportionately impacts the viability of services provided to many of our most vulnerable people.

“Australia's out-of-pocket health costs are amongst the highest in the world. This poses a major barrier to accessing affordable, timely and appropriate care for some people, particularly for care from specialists where out-of-pocket costs can be very high. Additionally, waiting lists for care in the public system, in some speciality areas, can be very long.

“The short-term reversals of decisions likely to impact bulkbilling of pathology and imaging services have focused on service provider viability and profits, and do not provide long-term assurance. The affordability of these services for consumers must be the priority, and we call on all parties to ensure that health policy places the Australian public clearly at the centre.

“Australians, no matter where they live or how much money they have, should have the right to high quality, timely health care. This is not only a reasonable aspiration, but also key to a high-performing economy. Arguments that we cannot afford our health care system have been strongly opposed by the public, consumer groups and health experts. Governments must make choices about how they spend taxpayer money, and must listen to the concerns that taxpayers rightly raise about access to basic services such a strong health system. ”

“In the search for reform options, it is important that the strengths of the existing system are built upon and the principles that Medicare was founded on are preserved: equity, efficiency, simplicity and universality,” Ms Verhoeven said.

 Read more: AHHA Position Statement: Universal Healthcare
Reversing Medicare freeze supports affordable healthcare for all Australians

This release originally stated Australia's out-of-pocket healthcare costs were the second-highest in the world.

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