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Budget 2016: Healthcare Budget a Mixed Bag for NFPs

4 May 2016 at 11:22 am
Eisha Gupta 
The federal budget delivered by Treasurer Scott Morrison has been met with mixed reviews by the healthcare sector.

Eisha Gupta  | 4 May 2016 at 11:22 am


Budget 2016: Healthcare Budget a Mixed Bag for NFPs
4 May 2016 at 11:22 am

The federal budget delivered by Treasurer Scott Morrison has been met with mixed reviews by the healthcare sector.

The budget included key proposals and provided:

  • $29.9 million over three years to integrate Australia’s cancer screening registries
  • $63.8 million to subsidise medicines for breast and prostate cancer and melanoma
  • $21.3 million to trial up to 200 Health Care Homes, with the aim of integrating prevention and care for people with chronic and complex conditions
  • $5.3 million for continued promotion of the Health Star Rating food labelling system.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) said the confirmation of an additional $2.9 billion over three years in public hospital funding was a welcome move though it returned less than half of the expected funding that was initially removed by the government in 2014, under then treasurer Joe Hockey.

The organisation said that around 50 measures, including some small investments and many cuts, were disguised as strategy.

AHHA’s chief executive Alison Verhoeven said the government needed to plan beyond the electoral cycle and develop a strategic vision for the future of Australian health.

“The AHHA strongly supports the ongoing commitment to activity-based funding, particularly given the National Health Performance Authority’s recent report has shown such funding improves hospital efficiency,” Verhoeven said.

“Action is needed to align the interfaces between health, aged care and disability services to help coordinate patient care. The limited arrangements proposed for Health Care Homes will only partly serve to address this.

“Despite much commentary from the health minister about the need for private health insurance reforms, the can has been kicked down the road, with a paltry investment in yet another review committee.  And the promised clean up of the Medicare Benefits Schedule has amounted only to minimal savings and some attention to achieving better compliance by providers.”

The government’s investment in trials for Health Care Homes is supported by Palliative Care Australia’s (PCA) CEO Liz Callaghan.

“Health Care Homes are an opportunity to prioritise care for people who can benefit from access to palliative care. Performance indicators for the Health Care Homes need to ensure they monitor the quality of end-of-life care for people with life-limiting illnesses,” Callaghan said.

Funding cuts to the tune of $1.2 billion from the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) over four years will have real impacts on Not for Profits who care for low income residents, according to various Not for Profits in the sector.

The Department of Health says the ACFI has experienced unanticipated growth in the complex health domain, and as a result indexation will be halved leading to a reduction of funding of $1.2 billion.

St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA) CEO Toby Hall said Not for Profits would be unable to meet the increasing demand of people’s care needs with dwindling funding.

“Not for Profit providers have small margins. We along with other Not for Profit providers care for a significantly higher proportion of concessional residents than other aged care operators. These changes put services for this vulnerable group under threat as providers seek to stay sustainable,” Hall said.

“The aged care sector already has one of the lowest paid workforces in the country. We struggle to attract skilled staff into our industry. How will these cuts make that battle easier?”

Liz Callaghan said she was concerned that residents in aged care would miss out on receiving high quality care at the end of their life.

“While we support being fiscally responsible, we call on the government to commit to closely monitoring the impact of this cut to ensure there is no reduction in the quality of care as a result of this cut,” she said.

There was support for the tobacco tax from Cancer Council Australia (CCA) and the AHHA.

CEO of CCA Sanchia Aranda said the 2016/17 budget would improve overall cancer outcomes in Australia while laying a platform for further investment over the longer term.

“The increase in tobacco tax alone will translate to tens of thousands of cancer deaths avoided, with trend data showing that the recurrent increases will lead to around 320,000 smokers quitting and 40,000 teenagers deterred from taking smoking up,” Aranda said.

“Additional investment and policy work are required in all the areas targeted by these initiatives, but the government should nonetheless be commended for its commitments.”

Alison Verhoeven said that reform to healthcare and related systems should be considered as part of a co-ordinated approach to delivering care across primary, acute, aged and disability care sectors.

“What Australians have been delivered tonight is a hotch potch of spending and cuts, with no clear vision,” she said.

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