Regaining trust on health will require serious effort

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

As vote counting continues and Australians wait to discover the composition of the 45th Parliament, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has urged elected representatives to listen to the clear message from voters that they are concerned about Australia’s health system.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s pledge to regain the voters’ trust on public healthcare is welcome, but the Coalition must acknowledge that voter concerns are legitimate and long-standing, not a response simply to election campaigning,” AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said.

“The 2014-15 Budget and subsequent health policy decisions have caused significant damage to the Commonwealth’s relationships with the states and territories, the public hospital sector and with the voting public, who have made clear that they regard public healthcare as a national priority.

“Australians want well-resourced public hospitals and they are very concerned about rising out-of-pocket costs for healthcare. It’s time for the Coalition to acknowledge that their health policy and budget measures have negatively impacted on voters over the past three years.  Despite their rhetoric about unsustainable health costs, the real pain is being felt by the public, not by governments[1]

“Regaining trust will require meaningful action, strategic policy effort, and engagement with all parts of the health sector.  The Coalition has initiated some welcome innovations, particularly in regard to the forthcoming trials of health care homes, tasking Primary Health Networks with commissioning place-based services focused on health outcomes, and re-energising the My Health Record. It has the opportunity to capitalise on this by ensuring these programs are appropriately resourced, and complement the cornerstones of our public health system – affordable primary and acute care for all Australians.

“The Coalition will need to work in genuine partnership with all stakeholders including Opposition and cross-bench members, listening and responding to diverse views and not just those of a favoured few.

“Reversing the Medicare rebates freeze, re-establishing a multi-lateral agreement with the states and territories on public hospital funding beyond 2020 and coordinating reforms across the sector to deliver sustainable, equitable and accessible healthcare will allow the Commonwealth to start taking forward steps on health.”

With the looming possibility of a minority government and no clear majority in the Senate, Ms Verhoeven also called on crossbenchers to heed voters’ concerns and work cooperatively with whoever controls Government on healthcare reform and funding.

“The message to all MPs and Senators from this election is that health policy is not something Australians will tolerate lip service on,” she said.

“To confront the challenges of the future, including our ageing population, rising rates of chronic disease and increasing costs of new medical technology, a whole-of-system approach to reform is needed.

“The Commonwealth needs to provide strong leadership to build a healthy Australia, supported by the best possible health system.”

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

[1] The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s most recent data on health expenditure shows that the Commonwealth Government’s share of total health expenditure declined from 43.8% in 2008-09 to 41.2% in 2013-14, while the share met by state, territory and local governments increased from 24.9% to 26.6%. Private health insurance funds met an increased share of 8.3% and the non-government sector share rose from 30.0% to 32.2% in the 2 year period to 2013-14. Further, the report showed that expenditure by individuals grew by an average of 6.2% per year in real terms over the decade to 2013-14, compared with growth in total health spending of 5.0%.  See: