Single safety net a good start but not the final fix on health funding

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has today welcomed suggestions from the Government that they may look to combine the Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) safety nets. 

AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven says, “We welcome the Government’s openness to simplifying the safety nets in the Australian healthcare system.  Merging the Medicare and pharmaceutical safety nets would make them easier for patients to understand and take a whole of health needs view which is long overdue.”

AHHA supports moves to simplify safety nets and would like to see this applied to all patients.  However it is important that other Medicare supported services such as diagnostic imaging and pathology, which would also be subjected to the Governments’ co-payment policy, should be included.

While supportive of the proposed safety net overhaul, AHHA remains concerned that the important issues in health financing continue to be ignored. 

“We are concerned that the discussion around co-payments and the deals being engineered by stakeholder groups and individual parliamentarians with the Government are continuing to act as a diversion away from the issues that really will drive efficiencies in the health system.  Shifting more costs to patients is a short term and narrow approach,” Ms Verhoeven says.

Instead the Government should be focusing on waste reduction, such as the review of items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule.  “Some of the medical and specialist colleges are already doing work in this area, including working with their members to agree which services, treatments and tests represent low value or ineffective care,” says Ms Verhoeven. 

The AHHA suggests that the Government could also capitalise on the conversation they have already started around healthcare financing and tackle the really hard issues.  “This conversation should include how Australia manages the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) too:  purchasing and governance of the PBS needs to work in the best interests of patients and taxpayers as well as industry.” 

Through all of this though, the Government needs to look more broadly about ways to better integrate systems - patient care especially, but also how safety nets, data collection, and payment and rebate systems all work together. 

“There is clearly a need for one system that enables patients to seek care from a range of providers, different GPs and specialists, pathology and imaging services, and to purchase medication without having to keep a healthcare log book.  Providers would also benefit from a seamless information management system that enables them to focus on care for patients and supporting better health outcomes.  After all, isn’t that the real end game,” says Ms Verhoeven. 

For more information on the AHHA, visit

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community.

Media enquiries:

Alison Verhoeven

Chief Executive, The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association

0403 282 501