‘What’s in the Federal Budget for the Mornington Peninsula?’ is the title of a newsletter that Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt sent constituents today.
Health policy analyst Charles Maskell-Knight has filled in some of the gaps below, in bold italics.
Annotated note from Minister Greg Hunt
As part of the 2022 Budget, I’m delighted to share some new investments and innovations with you:
To start, funding for public hospitals in Victoria continues to increase, up 118.86% since we came to Government. It hasn’t increased anything like as much as it would have under the original National Health Reform Agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Julia Gillard a decade ago, but there you go.
The Morrison Government has also strengthened Medicare by making telehealth consultations permanent. Across the Peninsula, there have been 843,396 telehealth consultations – an amazing result – funded through Medicare since the start of the pandemic. Of course, we have not done any evaluation of much wider telehealth access, so we have no idea whether this has led to improved health outcomes or not.
In the last year the Morrison Government has funded 2,304,562 free or subsidised medicines across the Peninsula through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, or PBS.
In this Budget, the Morrison Government continues to lower the cost of life saving medicines with new PBS listings for breast cancer and cystic fibrosis. We are also reducing the PBS Safety Net thresholds. Around 2.4 million Australians will benefit from earlier access to further subsidised or free PBS medicines.
Since coming to Government, we have made nearly 2,900 new or amended medicine listings through the PBS. Most of these are fiddly little technical amendments to add different doses or reasons for use, not new medicines, but it is still a great statistic. And every new listing gives lots of opportunities for positive media coverage for me, even though adding medicines based on advice from an expert committee is really business as usual.
To support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), this Budget guarantees record funding, which is supporting over 500,000 NDIS participants across Australia and 3,244 across the Peninsula. We hope to reduce this number over coming years as we introduce “independent” need assessments.
This Budget will continue a further record investment in aged care to help the 34,534 senior Australians living across the Peninsula. This investment will deliver more home care places, more funding for aged care centres and increases in the amount of time that nurses and carers spend with residents.
We have not increased the amount of time as quickly as the Aged Care Royal Commission recommended, nor will we increase the time to the level recommended by the Royal Commission, but we have to start somewhere, don’t we? Nor have we supported increased wages for aged care workers, who continue to receive about the same as people stacking shelves at Woolies and Coles. As the workforce shrinks, the expanded Australian Defence Force will be available to fill the gaps.
Some of you with private health insurance may recall that at the 2013 election we promised to restore the private health insurance premium rebate to 30%. We haven’t got around to that yet, but I’m sure you will understand that these things take time. For the moment we are using the $1.3 billion this would cost to fund other priorities, such as commuter car parks and community safety grants in more marginal electorates.
And while we are committed to Closing the Gap, we see no need to actually spend more on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services over the next four years.
We have done nothing to provide proper funding for the National Preventive Health Strategy or the Primary Health Care 10 year Plan. But we have announced them, so that is the hard bit done!
And finally, we have not included anything in the Budget to reflect the impact of climate change on the health system. The Nationals have convinced us that there is no need to do anything about climate change for another twenty years, so we have lots of time.
• Charles Maskell-Knight PSM worked as a senior public servant in the Department of Health for over 25 years before retiring in early 2021. He worked as a senior adviser to the Aged Care Royal Commission in 2019-20.
See Croakey’s extensive coverage of the Federal Health Budget