The ANMF has analysed the health policies of the major parties in the lead up to this Saturday’s federal election to find out where they stand on key issues.
It includes an overview of health policy announcements and funding commitments unveiled throughout the election campaign across areas such as aged care, Medicare and mental health.
The ALP’s health policy includes a $2.8 billion Better Hospital Fund (BHF) that will reverse cuts to hospital funding made by the Coalition Abbott Government and restore the 50/50 funding arrangement between the Commonwealth and the states.
The BHF will inject $500 million to upgrade emergency departments and employ additional nurses and doctors, and a further $250 million to cut elective surgery waiting times.
Other pledges include a $2.3 million Medicare cancer plan, with $600 million targeted towards providing free cancer scans, $433 million for three million free oncology/surgery consultations, and $500 million directed at reducing hospital waiting lists for cancer patients.
If elected, Labor has also promised to add all new drugs recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Advisory Committee to the PBS and reduce co-payment thresholds by 12 scripts for pensioners and health care cardholders.
Labor’s other key commitments involve establishing an Australian Health Reform Commission, investing $2.4 billion on dental care for pensioners, implementing a two-year 2% cap on private health insurance premium increases and ending the Medicare rebate freeze and investing $200 million into Medicare.
In aged care, Labor announced last Sunday that it will start taking action on the crisis facing the sector by ensuring there is a registered nurse on site at residential aged care facilities 24/7, publishing the numbers of skill mix of the aged care workforce employed at every nursing home, and addressing understaffing.
The Coalition’s central health promise focuses on mental health and suicide prevention despite no new funding actually being allocated to its scheme.
The scheme outlines $461 million for a youth mental health and suicide prevention strategy, including $111 million for a further 30 Headspace services and $152 million to reduce waiting times across the network.
Another $5.5 million will be spent over four years to provide extra mental health services for people in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland affected by natural disasters, and $5 million will be invested over five years to implement suicide prevention initiatives to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Elsewhere, the Coalition will spend $496 million on medical facilities in Victoria undertaking cancer treatment, as well as hospital infrastructure, mental health services and medical research.
However, in what appears a recurring theme, no new funding for the Medical Research Futures Fund has been allocated.
Indexation of Medicare rebates for about 90% of all diagnostic imaging will begin from July 2020 under the Coalition, with a range of new drugs for kidney, bladder, liver and skin cancer to be subsidised by the government.
Matching Labor, the Coalition has promised to add all new recommended drugs to the PBS and reduce prescription and co-payment thresholds for pensioners and other patients.
It will also lift the Medicare rebate freeze by 1 July 2019.
The Greens’ election health promises focus on bringing dental care into Medicare so it is fully covered and ending private health insurance rebates.
To prompt Commonwealth and State partnerships, the Greens have committed to ending cost shifting and will invest $970 million in a single funding agency.
The Greens aim to ensure that nurse and midwife-led services are made increasingly available to community members and have acknowledged the need to improve the ability of health professionals, including nurses and midwives, to work to their full scope of practice.
To this end, the Greens have outlined a $3.5 billion plan for primary healthcare, including $1,000 per voluntarily enrolled patient for GPs and $750 for allied health.
The Greens have also given in-principle support for continuity of midwifery care and will await the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Taskforce recommendations before committing to increasing Medicare access and rebates for care provided by nurse practitioners (NPs) and participating midwives.
Positively, the Greens support mandating staffing ratios in aged care and recognise that exact ratios must be determined according to the needs of residents in each facility in order to achieve appropriate skill mixes.
Like Labor, the Greens have backed having a minimum of one RN rostered 24 hours a day, seven days a week across all aged care facilities, and increased training and regulation of aged care staff.
While in rural health, the Greens have committed to developing a new National Rural Health Strategy, along with a Rural Health Workforce Innovation Fund, which will invest $180 over three years on infrastructure and increased MBS expenditure to boost health services for people in rural and regional areas.