AMA welcomes Health Budget as a good start to election
The Government has delivered a welcome boost to general practice, with an almost $1 billion investment detailed in the Federal Budget.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has delivered his first Budget, which is also the first Budget under the Prime Ministership of Scott Morrison, and has announced a $7.1 billion surplus.
But AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said it was obvious that Health Minister Greg Hunt had been listening to the AMA and has delivered a strong Health Budget, which has a particular emphasis on primary care.
Dr Bartone said the Government’s Budget announcements have set up a genuine health policy competition for the upcoming election.
“Australia’s hardworking GPs will be happy to see a commitment of almost $1 billion to general practice. This includes matching Labor’s promise to bring forward by a year the lifting of the freeze on rebates for a range of Medicare GP items,” Dr Bartone said.
“Overall, the Government has delivered a much-needed significant investment to general practice – the driving force of quality primary health care in Australia.”
The GP package includes:
- $448.5 million to improve continuity of care for patients over 70 with chronic conditions;
- Quality Incentive Payments for general practices ($201.5 million);
- $62.2 million for rural generalist training; and
- $187.2 million for lifting of the freeze on GP items.
The AMA also welcomes:
- Funding for new Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) medicines;
- Retention of the Aged Care Access Incentive (ACAI); and
- A rural workforce program.
But Dr Bartone said there were obvious gaps in mental health, prevention, Indigenous health, pathology, and public hospital funding to improve all hospitals.
“We expect to hear more on these key areas from all parties before the election,” he said.
“Health Minister Hunt has worked closely with the AMA, especially on the primary care element of this Budget.
“Overall, the Government has produced a good start for a quality health policy platform for the election.
“We look forward to the Opposition making health a real contest when they roll out all their policies.”
Dr Bartone said there is still unfinished business with the Private Health Insurance reforms as they are implemented from this month, and with the ongoing work of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review, which must return any savings to new and improved MBS items.
In his speech to Parliament, Mr Frydenberg said the Budget built on the Government’s plan to for a stronger economy.
Specifically on health, the Treasurer said it was front of mind for all Australians and this year the Government will spend more than $80 billion.
“An amount that has increased every year we have been in Government,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“More MRI machines. More life-changing medicines on the PBS. More funding for mental health. Better access to dental services. Better access to hospitals. And better access to regional GPs.
“In this Budget, we are: funding upgrades to regional hospitals, the first being in Townsville; establishing Australia’s first comprehensive children’s cancer centre in Sydney; helping to build a new Brain and Spinal Ward in South Australia.
“In this Budget, we also list more medicines on the PBS to treat kidney, bladder, liver and skin cancer.
“And tonight, we announce the listing of Besponsa, a medicine for people with acute Leukaemia.
“Instead of costing $120,000 a course, patients will now have access to the medicine at a cost of only $6.50 per script for concession card holders and around $40 for general patients.
“This brings the total number of new listings to more than 2,000 since we came to government, costing more than $10 billion.
“A real and profound dividend from a strong economy, and done without increasing taxes.”
The Treasurer repeated the Government’s assurance that Medicare is guaranteed and new services are being added to the Medicare Benefits Scheme
A Heart Kids Project for new research to treat and prevent heart disease affecting thousands of Australian children is being established.
The Government will invest $461 million in Australia’s most significant youth mental health and suicide prevention strategy, with 30 new headspace centres.
Support for Indigenous youth including through mentoring and peer support is also being funded.
And the Budget includes an investment of $725 million into aged care that aims to deliver 10,000 new home care packages.
The AMA Pre-Budget Submission 2019-20 is available at:
Published: 02 Apr 2019