Federal Election and Health Care

10-May-2019

Both major parties have made promises to improve Australia’s healthcare, with out-of-pocket costs featuring heavily in the campaign.

Labor are placing health front and centre of their campaign, reaffirming their commitment to universal health care with bold promises to improve equity in access to health services- with a particular focus on cancer care.

The Coalition are drawing the link between Australia’s economic success and essential health services and have highlighted their existing policy and record health spending.

Both parties have promised to lift the freeze on medicare rebates for GP services.

Labor

Bill Shorten has stated that Labor is offering ‘the biggest health care plan any party has ever offered at an election. Their promised spend currently sits at $8 billion more than the Coalition and this includes a big boost for public hospitals.

As part of the $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund, Labor has promised to restore the 50/50 public hospital funding deal between the states and the Commonwealth which was undercut by the Coalition in 2014.

Another big-ticket item is Labor’s $2.3 billion Cancer Plan. This includes the creation of new bulk-billed Medicare items, with the Parliamentary Budget Office calculating that it would lift the bulk-billing rate from 36% to 80% for surgeons and from 43% to 85% for oncologists. Labor are also promising to spend $600m to improve access to and affordability of diagnostic imaging, with up to six million free cancer scans funded through Medicare.

The Cancer Plan also includes automatic listing of new cancer therapies on the PBS once they’re recommended by the expert advisory panel.

Bill Shorten’s most recent announcement is an additional $250m (+ $250m from the Better Hospitals Fund) to upgrade to Emergency Departments, to address widespread concerns around waiting times and overcrowding.

Labor are also pushing for more equitable access to dental services for older Australians, offering $1000 worth of dental services every two years for those on the Pension or who have a Seniors Health Card.

Establish a permanent policy-making body called the Australian HealthReform Commission, similar to the Productivity Commission, with commissioners appointed for five years working with the Council of Australian Governments.

Cap private health insurance increases to 2% for two years prior to further reforms, as opposed to the current rates of on average 4-5% a year.

Coalition

The Coalition are sending the message that ‘A stronger economy means we can guarantee essential services.’ The Coalition is focused on promoting their most recent Budget announcements and existing policies.

Scott Morrison has identified the PBS as a priority program and has drawn attention to the Governments record in adding new treatments to the PBS. A new announcement has been to reduce the co-payment thresholds for the PBS from 60 to 48 scripts for pensioners and health care card holders, and reduce the annual cap. This policy has been matched by Labor.

The Coalition are also promising improvements to cancer diagnosis, with $375 million to fund new MRI licences to detect cancer, and $33 million funding towards MRI and PET scans for women with cancer.

They are also spruiking the Community Health and Hospitals Program announced last year. This $1.25 billion of extra funding is targeted at hospital services, drug and alcohol treatment, chronic disease management and mental health.

Tackling youth suicide and mental health have been referred to during the campaign as priorities by the Coalition, although there is no new spend on this item.

Dental care has similarly featured in their campaign, with a promise to invest $1 billion over three years to provide dental services for children.

Want to know more?

The Australian Health Care and Hospitals Association (AHHA) and health sector leaders have analysed the policies of the Coalition, Labor and the Greens, and have developed a handy scorecard on a range of health care principles and policies. It rates the parties on important issues such as mental health, Closing the Gap, health literacy, preventative health, climate change and many more

Take a look here.