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Nursing, hospital peak bodies condemn audit

The Commission of Audit (CoA) has put forward reforms to keep Australia’s healthcare system “efficient and competitive”.

Acknowledging the current health system is not well equipped to face future challenges, including an ageing population and rising health services costs, the report highlights nine short- to medium-term healthcare reforms.

Amongst these is the introduction of co-payments for all Medicare-funded services. General patients would pay $15 per service for their first 15 each year, and $7.50 per service after that. Concession care holders would be charged $5.00 each for the first 15 visits and $2.50 beyond that threshold.

In addition, the commission has suggested requiring higher-income earners to take out private health insurance for basic health services, in place of Medicare.

ANMF federal secretary Lee Thomas said a GP fee and hospital tax would mean the end of universal healthcare under Medicare.

“The CoA was meant to ensure taxpayers receive value for their tax dollars and was expressly forbidden from touching concessions for wealthy superannuants and the fossil fuel industry, which currently cost the taxpayer $45 billion dollars a year,” Thomas said. “Instead, it has chosen to punish families, the aged, the disabled and the chronically ill. How can this possibly be value for our tax dollars? On behalf of our members, the ANMF is again calling on Mr Abbott to reject these recommendations, for the sake of all Australians.”

She also raised concerns for low-paid aged-care workers, whom she said would be affected “by minimum wage benchmarking of 44 per cent of average earning for years to come”.

Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association CEO Alison Verhoeven applauded the commission’s acknowledgement of the complexity of healthcare and the need for structural reform.

However, she said the recommendations “will do little to support such lofty principles, and much to undermine them, particularly via the initial incremental changes it proposes to the health system”.

“While the Commission makes much of the predicted increases in health expenditure,” Verhoeven said, “it makes no recommendations that encourage a greater focus on health promotion and disease prevention, which are clearly an effective approach to reducing costs and improving the health of the community.

“It also appears likely that we are moving towards a two-tiered system of ‘haves and have-nots’ in health: the government needs to keep in mind that a productive economy requires healthy workers. It is in the interests of a healthy tax base that we have a healthy population; particularly, if as government has signalled, it wants to keep people in the workforce for longer.”

Visit ncoa.gov.au/report/phase-one/part-b/7-3-a-pathway-to-reforming-health-care.html to read the health recommendations in full.

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