The Australian Health Care Reform Alliance (AHCRA), a coalition of more than 40 organisations representing consumers and health care providers, today released the statement below rating the major parties’ election health policies.
In a nutshell, the Greens are leading the pack, followed closely by Labor, with the Coalition “still in the foothills”.
The AHCRA statement
“The health policies of the two major parties are still a very long way apart” says Tony McBride, AHCRA chair.
“Unfortunately there is still a long way to go to redesign and fund the health system the Australian community needs” Mr McBride says.
“Labor has committed to the journey but is only half-way up the mountain, sometimes wandering off onto side tracks. The Coalition is still in the foothills, without a defined destination, compass or map. The Greens are slightly further ahead than Labor but perhaps because they have not weighed down their journey with actual costings for their commitments.”
The Alliance has analysed all three parties’ published polices against a set of ten criteria (developed by its members) and created an election scorecard to assist people to gauge their worth.
That analysis shows Labor has a far stronger commitment than the Coalition to reforming the system and investing in the structural improvements that consumers and professionals are calling for.
Labor’s score of 15 out of 30 reflects the very large investment made in health in the last few years and its greater commitment to primary health care. Labor is making decisions to address efficiency and fragmentation (ie reducing some of the Blame Game by taking over funding of all primary health, aged care and most of hospital funding, as well as bringing in casemix). Labor also scores higher than the Coalition in regard to prevention (National Preventive Health Agency) and growing the health workforce.
“Although the Coalition has some reasonable individual policies, they tend to be more ad hoc with no overall commitment to reform resulting in a score of only 9 out of 30. The Coalition does score better on mental health, where the two parties are offering very similar policies but the Coalition is promising to significantly outspend Labor. However this will be funded by scrapping other health programs to the detriment of other consumers. The Alliance also notes that the Coalition funding commitments do not as yet appear to have been submitted to Treasury for checking” said Mr McBride.
So far the Greens rank highest on the scorecard with 17 points, outscoring the bigger parties through their commitment to universal health care, access and equity, Indigenous health, mental health and dental health. The Alliance lives in hope that they will be able to use their newfound position to influence national health policy.
Both major parties scored poorly on making care more accessible and affordable, and on improving Indigenous health (although Labor has made significant policy and funding pledges in the last two years and the previous Coalition before them). Both also did poorly on promoting genuine citizen or consumer engagement in the health system. Labor is only slightly ahead of the Coalition which appears to have no policy at all and a poor track record.
The only top score (3 out of 3, reflecting a good policy which is being prioritised) was for the Greens’ policy commitment to a universal public health system, funded by progressive taxation. In all other categories the Alliance considers that all parties are yet to commit to what is really needed to ensure a really sustainable and fair health system.
One very significant difference is in the parties’ policy on the introduction of electronic health records. Consumer and professional groups see its introduction as one of the most significant tools to improve the integration and hence quality of care. The Coalition has vowed to scrap it and the National Broadband Network which would facilitate its use.
Mr McBride concluded “there is still a way to go to redesign and fund a better system. Labor has committed to the journey but is only half-way up the mountain, sometimes wandering off onto side tracks. Unfortunately, the Coalition is still in the foothills, lacking either a compass or a map. The Greens are slightly further ahead than Labor but perhaps because they have not weighed down their journey with actual costings for their commitments”.