2019 Federal Budget — what’s in it for us?
The 2019 Federal Budget has been released with billions of dollars committed to the health- and aged-care sectors. The following summarises the key budgetary offerings in these sectors and some reactions from industry leaders.
Tackling the cost of care
The government has committed to:
- Create a $1.1 billion Strengthening Primary Care package, including $448 million for high needs patients, and $187 million to increase the patient rebate for a further 119 GP items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) from 1 July 2019.
- Reduce the cost of MRIs for over 14,000 breast cancer patients with a further $32.6 million and invest $152 million in new MRI licences, bringing total funding since 2018 to $379 million for 53 new MRI licences nationally.
- Increase in funding for public hospitals, including $100 million for a Comprehensive Children’s Cancer Centre in Sydney, $80 million to establish a Centre of Excellence in Cellular Immunotherapy in Victoria and $30 million for the construction of a new Brain and Spinal Ward in South Australia.
- Make medicine more affordable by investing $331 million for new and amended listings on the PBS, including medicines to treat lung, bladder, kidney and skin cancer as well as leukaemia. Patients will be able to access these medicines for just $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.
Medicines Australia CEO Elizabeth de Somer and Society of Hospital Pharmacists Australia CEO Kristin Michaels welcomed the adding of new medicines to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, while the Australian Dental Association was satisfied with the government’s commitment of $1 billion to ensure the sustainability of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule for the next few years, including a commitment to public sector access to the CDBS.
Investing in research
- A $5 billion Ten Year Investment Plan for the Medical Research Future Fund to support world-class medical research, more clinical trials and the development of health innovations.
- The Plan includes $614 million for rare cancers and diseases, $220 million for cardiovascular health, $605 million for clinical infrastructure and $150 million for stem cell research.
This announcement was welcomed by the Alliance of Translation Research Centres, which brings together hospitals, healthcare organisations, universities and research institutes for better health through research.
Protecting the vulnerable
- To address mental health and youth suicide, an additional $111 million is being provided for 30 new headspace services by 2021, to support young people, and $152 million to reduce waiting lists for headspace, $110 million to extend the Early Psychosis Youth Services program for two years and $115 million to trial eight adult mental health centres. The government is also providing $54 million to establish four specialist residential facilities for eating disorders.
- Domestic violence will be addressed by providing $328 million over four years from 2018–19 to deliver the government’s Fourth Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022.
- Protecting people with a disability: while not yet given the go-ahead by the Governor General, the government has committed $528 million over five years to fund a Royal Commission to examine violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.
National Rural Health Alliance CEO Mark Diamond welcomed $62m to train doctors in rural generalist practice, but said the Budget largely failed to address a critical shortage of allied health professionals for 7 million people living outside metropolitan Australia. He said that boosts for mental health including $15m for Indigenous suicide prevention and the headspace initiatives were positive, but that there was no indication these funds would be spent in the bush.
Supporting the aged
- $282 million to support Australians who wish to stay at home for longer by providing an additional 10,000 home care packages across all levels.
- An additional 13,500 residential care places available from 2018–19 and $60 million for residential care infrastructure.
- A National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians, including $18 million to support frontline services and a new National Hotline (1800 ELDERHelp or 1800 353 374).
Maree McCabe, Dementia Australia CEO, said the initiatives in the 2019 Federal Budget were a good start but do not speak to the heart of the problem for people living with dementia, their families and carers — the need for recognition of dementia within the health, ageing and disability industry.
Similarly, Australian College of Nursing CEO Kylie Ward expressed disappointment in the Budget for failing to distribute additional funding to improving patient outcomes across the country. “This modest allocation fails to appreciate the growing crisis in aged care, particularly in registered nurse staffing shortfalls and inadequate skills-mix training,” she said.
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