Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review Of The Ongoing Post - Budget Controversy 14th August 2014. It Is Sure Going On and On!

Budget Night was on Tuesday 13th May, 2014 and the fuss has still not settled by a long shot.
It is amazing how the discussion on the GP Co-Payment just runs and runs.
Here are some of the more interesting articles I have spotted this eleventh  week since it was released.
Parliament has now got up for the Winter Recess we can take a breath and see where we are.
The main fun this week has been to watch Mr Hockey wander around the country trying to drum up support for his budget and being told, essentially, to just start again.
We also saw the announcement that the Human Services planned to get out of service delivery by outsourcing all the payment functions. This sounds a little like getting rid of core Government activity to me.
We sure do live in interesting times!
As an add-on a few links on Ebola Virus, the last of which is very encouraging! It is a terrifying disease….
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General.

Medibank moves into GP care to push ‘quality’ deals

Sean Parnell

AUSTRALIA’S largest health fund, the government-owned Medibank Private, has extended its level of protection and support for members, declaring better quality care the key to making the system financially sustainable.
Despite the Abbott government wanting the private sector to play a greater role, Health Minister Peter Dutton has ruled out inviting insurers to take part in negotiations with the Australian Medical Association and senators over the plan for a $7 co-payment.
Medibank Private, which is to be sold, has followed the lead of Bupa and signed a quality-based funding agreement with a hospital network, Healthe Care, imposing financial disincentives for unplanned readmissions and adverse events. It plans to negotiate similar deals with the larger networks.
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Long lens strategy to secure budget

David Crowe

VOTERS will be warned of a crushing load on the nation’s finan­ces in a new report aimed at sharpening debate on spending cuts as Joe Hockey steps up ­efforts this week to pass his budget reforms.
The Abbott government will bring forward the Treasury analysis of the strain on the budget as it struggles to defeat objections to $40 billion in savings on pensions, welfare, health and education.
As the Treasurer tries to sway more crossbench senators to back his plans, he is also hoping to use the long-term Intergenerational Report to convince voters to ­accept unpopular budget cuts.
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Nursing homes plan to build on-site GP clinics

Date August 4, 2014 - 6:59PM

Julia Medew

Health Editor

An increasing number of aged care facilities are trying to overcome a shortage of high quality medical services by building permanent GP clinics on their premises. 
For years, experts have complained that residents of aged care facilities are getting inadequate medical care, partly because there are not enough incentives for GPs to travel from their clinics to attend elderly patients and continue an ongoing relationship with them. 
In many cases, this means locum GPs are frequently called to care for residents after hours, or they are sent to hospital for potentially unnecessary investigations and futile care, particularly at the end of life.  
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Bulk-billing unsustainable: Dutton

5th Aug 2014
HEALTH Minister Peter Dutton has said current GP bulk-billing rates aren’t sustainable and should be confined to the most needy, as dissent in the Liberal-National Party coalition over co-payment reforms spilled into the public arena.
Asked about dissenting LNP backbenchers’ concerns over the impact of the co-payment on pensioners, Mr Dutton said the government needed to stick to its main message that the reforms were necessary and would strengthen Medicare.
“Look, I think there’s always worry with change, and I think we have to continue explaining what we are doing,” he said on Radio 2UE on Monday.
“I think when we explain to people that we are retaining bulk-billing, but bulk-billing rates at the moment of 83% just aren’t sustainable, and if we can narrow that down to the most in need, I think we can make Medicare stronger.
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Health experts rally over budget

6 August, 2014 Amanda Davey
Australian public health experts have upped the ante in a bid to further highlight health inequities in the 2014 Federal Budget.
Among other things, they argue the policies put forward by the Abbott government will affect preventive health as well as universal access to affordable health care.
“What has the majority of the Australian population done to deserve such a brutal cull of services …?” asks Sharon Friel, Professor of Health Equity at the Regulatory Institutions Network, Menzies Centre for Health Policy.
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Coalition rethinks Medicare, uni rises

Andrew Tillett The West Australian August 7, 2014, 5:15 am
Senior ministers have signalled they are willing to water down contentious higher education reforms and the $7 Medicare co-payment in a bid to salvage key Federal Budget measures.
After the Abbott Government abandoned its election promise to dilute race hate laws, Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Health Minister Peter Dutton both said they would be prepared to compromise with Senate crossbenchers.
Despite describing his tertiary education package as a "well-oiled machine", Mr Pyne indicated he would negotiate over the proposed increase to the interest rate on student debts.
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Medical payments to go private

Joanna Heath
More than $30 billion in Medicare and pharmaceutical benefit payments a year is likely to be outsourced, cutting the Department of Human Services in half and reshaping the delivery of government services.
The decision – a key recommendation of the Commission of Audit – could allow Australia Post or one of the big four banks to step in to calculate and process health payments and absorb Medicare retail outlets.
It aligns with the government’s plans as part of the budget process to reduce the size the public service and make government services more efficient.
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Crossbenchers Ricky Muir and John Madigan attack Joe Hockey's budget

Date August 8, 2014

Heath Aston

Political reporter

Joe Hockey's budget roadshow has hit more potholes, with resistance to key measures from crossbencher Ricky Muir and claims by John Madigan that the budget lacks ''logic, heart and hope''.
The Treasurer was in Ballarat to meet Senator Madigan on Thursday and was due to sit down with Senator Muir on Friday.
The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator will meet Mr Hockey without the support of his chief of staff, Glenn Druery, and policy adviser, Peter Breen, both of whom he sacked in the past week amid turmoil in his office.
In a statement, Senator Muir outlined concerns at the sections of society that would be most affected by the budget.
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Specialist Fees.

7 August 2014, 2.44pm AEST

Health budget: GP care isn’t the problem, costly specialist care is

Author

Peter Sivey

Senior Lecturer, School of Economics at La Trobe University
The opening of eight new medical schools in Australia in the past decade has seen a massive increase in the number of new doctors entering the workforce. The number of new junior doctors graduating in Australia doubled between 2004 and 2011. But while fears of an overall shortage of doctors seem assuaged, we don’t have the right mix of doctors.
A recent trend is the increasing specialisation of the medical workforce. In 1999, 45% of Australian doctors were general practitioners (GPs) but this proportion had fallen to 38% by 2009. Similar trends can be observed in the United States and United Kingdom.
This trend is concerning because primary care, provided by general practitioners, is the most efficient and equitable type of health care, particularly preventive care and the management of chronic disease. These components of GP-provided care have the potential to improve health outcomes, lower costs and reduce the need for future more costly interventions.
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Call to cap specialists’ fees gathers support

7th Aug 2014
THE former Howard government adviser who reignited the co-payment debate is back. In his sights: exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses being charged by overpaid specialists.
Terry Barnes has called for the fees that surgeons and other specialists can charge to be capped at their AMA-recommended rates. And if they charge too much they should be refused access to Medicare, he told Medical Observer.
"If the AMA schedule is considered fair and reasonable, then any out-of-pocket in excess of that is, by definition, unreasonable," Mr Barnes said.
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GP Co-Payments.

AMA demand for seniors’ fee exemption could cost $2b

Joanna Heath
The Abbott government faces a budget hit of up to $2 billion if it agrees to a demand from doctors that pensioners be exempt from the $7 medical payment, which is designed to discourage people going to the doctor with minor complaints.
The Australian Medical Association put a modified version of the scheme to Health Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday. It proposes a significant watering down of coverage for the measure and refuses to budge from the AMA’s opposition to any cut in the Medicare rebate for doctors.
This leaves the government with a choice between significantly less budget savings to secure the group’s support, and by extension the support of some crossbench senators, or covering almost every Australian and entrenching opposition to the charge.
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Coalition MPs break ranks on $7 GP charges

Date August 4, 2014

Latika Bourke

National political reporter

EXCLUSIVE
The proposed $7 GP co-payment needs to be scrapped for pensioners, at least three of the government's own MPs say.
This comes as a new survey showed two-thirds of households thought their financial position would worsen over the next year because of the budget.
Students, pensioners and single parents are among those who feared the worst effects.
Queensland Liberal National MP George Christensen said he had been conducting a series of forums across his electorate, and the feedback on the GP payments had been "overwhelming".
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'Soften blow' of GP fee by reducing co-payment for medicines on PBS, Senator David Leyonhjelm to Joe Hockey

Date August 4, 2014 - 11:10AM

Latika Bourke

National political reporter

One of the key crossbench senators will tell Treasurer Joe Hockey to "soften the blow" of the proposed $7 GP fee by reducing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payment by the same amount.
Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm is meeting Mr Hockey in Sydney on Monday where he will urge the
Treasurer to also dump the planned $20 billion Medical Research Fund, which would be partly funded by the GP fee.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payment increased from $36.10 to $36.90 in January this year. Senator Leyonhjelm said reducing the PBS co-payment to $30 would send a price signal to patients but at the same time improve the GP fee's saleability to the electorate.
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Govt MPs want GP co-payment changes

  • August 04, 2014 3:15AM
  • AAP
AT least three government MPs reportedly believe the controversial proposed $7 GP co-payment should be scrapped for pensioners.
FAIRFAX Media reports that Queensland Liberal National George Christensen has received "overwhelming" negative feedback on the issue after conducting a series of forums across his electorate.
"Politically it would be a good move if we exempt pensioners or people born before 1956," Mr Christensen has told he Sydney Morning Herald.
"It will be no surprise to the prime minister, the treasurer or anyone else that the GP co-payment isn't popular. Overwhelmingly, the feedback on the issue is that you must exempt pensioners."
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Govt didn’t consult on co-payment: AMA

4th Aug 2014
THE AMA has reaffirmed its opposition to the proposed co-payment for medical services after Health Minister Peter Dutton wrongly claimed he had consulted AMA leaders on the idea before last year’s federal election.
Mr Dutton told a press conference in Brisbane on Friday that he had discussed the issue with then AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton and current president Associate Professor Brian Owler ahead of the September 2013 election.
The claim was circulated on social media before the AMA picked it up and called for a correction, leading Mr Dutton to amend his statement.
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Health Minister Peter Dutton says government will not back down on proposed $7 Medicare co-payment

  • 4 hours ago August 06, 2014 5:33PM
  • AAP
HEALTH Minister Peter Dutton insists the Medicare co-payment is a “sensible change” to the health system which will pass parliament.
But he won’t get any support from Labor, after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told a 200-strong rally outside Old Parliament House in Canberra that the plan would be fought “to the death”.
The government is struggling to find support on the Senate crossbench for the $7 co-payment which is to go into a new medical research fund.
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Dutton insists $7 co-pay plan is a winner

7 August, 2014 AAP
Health Minister Peter Dutton insists the $7 co-payment is a "sensible change" to the health system that will get through Parliament.
The Federal Government is struggling to find support on the Senate crossbench for the policy, which the health minister says will help make Medicare sustainable.
The Palmer United Party has joined Labor in condemning the idea that is intended to be implemented from July next year.
And at least three of the government's own MPs have publicly voiced concern about the budget measure, arguing for exemptions for pensioners and the elderly.
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Medicare Locals.

Medicare Locals spent money on fines, gifts

6 August, 2014 Paul Smith
Medicare Locals used public money to pay parking fines and speeding tickets, and to buy farewell gifts for employees, a new report claims.
Professional services firm Deloitte was commissioned by the Federal Government to carry out a detailed audit of six Medicare Locals.
Deloitte's report said that some money allotted to Medicare Locals programs had been spent on parking and speeding tickets, employer entertainment, farewell gifts and office amenities.
Neither the Medicare Locals involved nor the amount of "inappropriate expenditure" are listed in the Deloitte report.
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Pharmacy, PBS and Medicine Issues.

August is ‘month of mapping’: Guild

4 August, 2014 Christie Moffat
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is encouraging its members to access a business tool to help monitor the impact of PBS reforms and pricing on their business.
ScriptMAP is a program developed by the Guild, designed to provide detailed information on PBS reforms and pricing, and includes a customised analysis of the effects of these reforms on a member pharmacy.
The report accesses the best available information and is based on each individual dispensing mix sourced from dispensary software, in order to provide a clear picture on the impact of changes that will occur to PBS pricing and pharmacy remuneration.
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Pharmacies should become a ‘concierge service’ for elderly: Quilty

6 August, 2014 Christie Moffat 1 comments
Pharmacies need to focus on positioning themselves as a “personalised medication concierge service” to the elderly, according to a senior Guild figure.
Writing in Pharmacy Guild of Australia newsletter Forefront, executive director David Quilty said that the Guild, along with the Government and other health insurers, saw significant potential for pharmacies to take a lead role in ensuring that older Australians continued to live independently in the community for as long as possible.
“The time is right for a pharmacy-led, personalised medication concierge service that increases medicine adherence rates and reduces the likelihood of unnecessary hospitalisation and premature nursing home admissions,” Mr Quilty said.
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PBS reforms to cost pharmacies $90,000

Date August 9, 2014 - 10:44PM

Julieanne Strachan

Reporter for The Sunday Canberra Times.

Pharmacists are axing free services and cutting jobs because of reductions to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prices paid by the Federal Government, the industry has said.
As many as 124 jobs are expected to be lost in the ACT and pharmacists have been warned their profits will drop by an average of $90,000 this financial year.
Some businesses are considering an end to Sunday trading, scrapping free home delivery of medications to elderly patients and ending free blood pressure checks, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has said.
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Ebola.

Health, safety preparations in place to deal with Ebola cases, says Health Minister Peter Dutton

Date August 8, 2014 - 8:38PM

Alexandra Back

The Department of Health has moved to allay fears of the Ebola virus' spread to Australia, after the World Health Organisation declared west Africa's epidemic an international health emergency.
Minister for Health Peter Dutton said on Friday that Australia is fully equipped to deal with any suspect case of the virus should it arrive in the country.
"The announcement that World Health Organisation has declared the west African Ebola virus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern does not change the risk to Australia, which remains very low," Mr Dutton said.
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Ebola vaccine to be trialled next month, may be available by 2015

Date August 10, 2014 - 6:53AM
The World Health Organisation says clinical trials of a preventative vaccine for the Ebola virus may begin next month and made available by 2015.
The vaccine, made by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, will first be rolled out in the United States and African countries.
The WHO's head of vaccines and immunisation, Jean-Marie Okwo Bele, said he was optimistic about making the vaccine commercially available by next year.
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Comment:
It seems the fuss is not yet settled - to say the least.
Lots to browse with all sorts of initiatives going rather pear shape - think security, sanctions and so on!
To remind readers there is also a great deal of useful health discussion here from The Conversation.
Also a huge section on the overall budget found here:
Enjoy.
David.

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