- Healthcare in Australia is set for its biggest shake-up since the introduction of universal coverage in the 1970s, as part of a tough federal budget on Tuesday that critics fret is taking the country towards a U.S.-style system.
- Over the next five years $534 million will be cut from Indigenous programs administered by the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Health portfolios.
- New AMA (NSW) leadership team commits to public health and the medical profession. Previous AMA (NSW) Vice President and dermatologist, Dr Saxon Smith, is the new AMA (NSW) President.
Healthcare in Australia is set for its biggest shake-up since the introduction of universal coverage in the 1970s, as part of a tough federal budget on Tuesday that critics fret is taking the country towards a U.S.-style system.
An audit of the Australian economy released last month recommended broad structural changes and a tight rein on costs to stem what the government warns is a looming “fiscal crisis” as the country’s decade-long mining boom slows.
But of the sectors examined by the National Commission of Audit it was healthcare, which accounted for 8.9 per cent of GDP in 2010-2011 according to OECD figures, that was singled out as the country’s most serious long-term fiscal challenge.
In support of that position, the audit recommended an A$15 ($14) fee for doctors’ visits and proposed a U.S.-style healthcare model in which all Australians would be required to buy private health insurance, with lower wage earners receiving a subsidy.
That puts Australia in the odd position of moving away from universal coverage even as U.S. President Barack Obama has spent years of political capital trying to introduce it in his country, the last holdout against universal coverage in the developed world.
Australian spending on healthcare was slightly lower than the OECD average of 9.3 percent of GDP in 2011, putting it behind the United States at 17.7 per cent and a number of European countries including France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
But Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government argues that healthcare costs are unsustainable and must be reined in as part of reforms aimed at ending what Treasurer Joe Hockey calls “the age of entitlement”.
Budget 2014: $534 million cut to Indigenous programs By the National Reporting Team’s Michael Coggan
Over the next five years $534 million will be cut from Indigenous programs administered by the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Health portfolios.
The budget papers show the savings will be made by replacing more than 150 programs, grants and activities with five broad-based programs under the Government’s new Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
The programs will be: jobs, land and the economy; children and schooling; safety and wellbeing; culture and capability; and remote Australia strategies.
More than $160 million of the cuts will come out of Indigenous health programs. The health savings will be redirected to the Medical Research Future Fund.
The cuts include a $3.5 million cut to the Torres Strait Regional Authority.
Treasurer Joe Hockey says the cuts are being made to eliminate waste.
“It is not going to turn around overnight but there has been incredible duplication and some waste,” he said.
On top of the program cuts the Government has confirmed the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples will not get $15 million earmarked for the representative body over the next three years.
Funding for Indigenous language support announced in the last budget will also be cut by $9.5 million over five years.
Opposition Indigenous affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann says Tony Abbott can no longer be considered the Prime Minister for Indigenous Australia as “the close the gap strategy is in tatters”.
New AMA (NSW) leadership team commits to public health and the medical profession
Previous AMA (NSW) Vice President and dermatologist, Dr Saxon Smith, is the new AMA (NSW) President, after being elected unopposed ON TUESDAY NIGHT.
DR SMITH SAID HE IS “I am honoured to have been elected as AMA (NSW) President, especially at such a crucial time for health in NSW and, indeed, Australia,” Dr Smith said. HE STATED THAT
“Obviously, consequences of the Federal Budget will be felt in NSW and the AMA will continue to campaign for doctors and the patients we treat.
“Improving equity of access to healthcare has been and continues to be one of the key goals of the AMA.
Dr Smith has long been a campaigner on public health issues, most recently making a submission to the Federal Government on skin cancer, based on his own research on the subject.
DR SMITH STATED THAT PART OF WHAT ATTRACTED HIM
“Part of what attracted me to the presidency is the opportunity it provides to make a real difference when it comes to issues of public health.
“Despite the success of existing campaigns to encourage people to protect themselves from UV radiation, skin cancer is still one of Australia’s most commonly diagnosed cancers.
“In particular, melanoma can be very aggressive and have low survivability but there are many other forms of skin cancer and I will be adding my voice and the weight of AMA (NSW) to this important health issue,” Dr Smith said.
“You can also expect to see me leading by example, along with our new Vice President, Professor Brad Frankum, on issues of physical activity and efforts to reduce obesity.
ANOTHER KEY ISSUE IS REDUCING OBESITY – HE WILL BE
“We’re both keen runners and we will be participating in the City2Surf this year at AS head of Team AMA (NSW) to raise awareness about the benefits of exercise,” Dr Smith said.
Dr Smith is succeeding neurosurgeon and well-known public health campaigner, A/Prof Brian Owler, whose term ended last ON TUESDAY night.