Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review Of The Ongoing Post - Budget Controversy 16th October 2014. It Just Rolls 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. Some more this week.
Here are some of the more interesting articles I have spotted this 20th week since it was released.
The big news from last week is a clear cut back-down on some of the more draconian changes proposed in May. The Mid Year Economic Forward Outlook - confirmed as due in December by Mr Hockey on-Sunday  will show us what other nasties have been dreamt up to replace the budget holes!
During last week we have seen Mr Hockey become more and more shrill in his concerns about the fate of his budget. The House of Reps returns 20th October and the Senate 27th October so we will see how we go!


Intergenerational Report will reveal massive cost growth: Hockey

David Crowe

A MASSIVE spending burden threatens to tip the nation into decades of deficits, according to new government findings that will be released early next year to jolt parliament — and the public — into accepting another wave of budget reform.
Setting a new strategy in the political fight over difficult ­savings, Joe Hockey has decided to hold back the official analysis to maximise its impact on national debate when parliament sits in February.
The findings will set off a debate over the nation’s long-term challenges by feeding into the tax reform white paper, which will consider the GST, and influencing the federation white paper on key issues such as the mounting cost of healthcare.
Mr Hockey considered publishing the long-range Intergenerational Report this year but rejected the option in favour of timing the new Treasury analysis to prepare the ground for further savings in the May budget.

‘All budget options open’, says Mathias Cormann

David Uren

THE Abbott government is sticking to its promise to get the budget back into balance by 2017-18, with a big surplus achieved by 2023-4, despite the softening in global growth and a difficult Senate.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says he cannot rule out tax increases or more spending cuts as the government prepares a December update of the budget.
“We will be looking right across government for opportunities for additional savings in order to make up for the additional expenditure or the cost of late savings,” Senator Cormann told Sky News’s Agenda program.

Treasurer Joe Hockey says falling commodity prices will hurt budget

Date October 7, 2014 - 11:33AM
Falling commodity prices will hurt Australian government efforts to rein in its budget deficit, spurring possible new savings measures, Treasurer Joe Hockey said.
"Lower commodity prices in iron ore and coal are going to have an impact on our budget bottom line," he said in an interview in New York.
"There are many variables at play but there will be a negative impact."
The price of iron ore has fallen 41 per cent in China this year, according to Metal Bulletin, while steelmaking coal is trading at the lowest level in six years.

Foreign aid faces cut to fight terror, plan national security

David Crowe

FOREIGN aid is set to be cut to help pay for military operations in Iraq and stronger national security at home, as the Abbott government hunts for new savings while standing by unpopular reforms now stymied in the Senate.
Amid warnings from Joe Hockey of additional cuts in the next budget update, The Australian has been told a two-year pause in ­future aid increases is the leading option to cover the cost of a fight against terrorism that is aimed at saving lives.
The government is canvassing the new measures as it rubbishes talk of a retreat on more than $20 billion in savings on the age pension, university reforms, medical fees and fuel tax increases.

The War On Spending: Hockey And Abbott Beat A Hasty Budget Retreat

By Ben Eltham
The Abbott Government has backed down on another key component of their budget. Ben Eltham explains.
The Abbott government is backing down on some of its welfare changes.
Employment Minister Eric Abetz has signalled that the government will drop its controversial new requirement for job seekers accessing unemployment benefits to search for 40 jobs a month.
“We have listened to the community feedback, we do understand that for business this would be a burden,” Abetz told the ABC's AM program.

Greens deal opens door to action on Joe Hockey’s budget savings

David Crowe

CLIMATE change concerns will be used to reopen talks on at least $2.2 billion in budget savings as Joe Hockey honours a deal with the Greens to address some of their claims in a long-range review of the nation’s fortunes.
Greens leader Christine Milne has written to the Treasurer in recent days to list the climate change factors to include in the forthcoming Intergenerational Report, clearing the way for consultation on the budget outlook. Mr Hockey will link the talks to one of the key structural savings in the budget, urging the Greens to support an increase in petrol excise that will lift federal revenue while putting an impost on a fossil fuel.
The Intergenerational Report will be released early next year to show the state of the budget over the next 40 years, revealing the commonwealth’s long-term spending burdens as well as the benefit of early decisions on savings that can build over time.

Treasurer Joe Hockey pressures Labor to pass stalled budget measures to pay for Iraq war

Date October 9, 2014 - 11:07AM

Latika Bourke

National political reporter

Treasurer Joe Hockey has called on Labor to pass blocked budget measures if it is genuine about supporting the mission in Iraq and its associated costs.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ruled out introducing a war tax to pay for the Iraq mission, which is roughly estimated to cost $250 million for every six months the operation runs.
Speaking in Washington, Mr Hockey said the Australian government would be able to fund its commitment and would reveal how in the December budget update.

Cormann to woo Palmer on budget

  • Staff Reporter
  • October 10, 2014 7:45AM
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has been deployed to Queensland to try and negotiate a deal with Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer to pass billions of dollars worth of stalled budget measures, The Australian Financial Review reports.
According to the newspaper, Mr Palmer has ruled out backing the $3.6 billion Medicare co-payment or $5 billion in higher education cuts, and is also seeking support for his own climate change plans.

Seniors stuck in hospital awaiting aged care, inquiry hears

By Linda Belardi on October 10, 2014 in Consumers, Government, Industry
Delays in hospital transfers to aged care, the under-utilisation of nurse practitioners and calls to expand medicare-funded GP teleheath services are among the key issues that have been put to a senate inquiry into health policy and expenditure.
State and territory governments have voiced their concern over unnecessary hospital stays by older people who are ready to move into residential aged care.
The ACT Government told the Senate Select Committee into Health that on average 30 public hospital patients each day were waiting to access aged care services, at a cost of $1,200 per day.

Seats held by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are among least affected by budget: report

Date October 10, 2014 - 5:21PM

Lisa Cox, Tom Allard

Voters in electorates held by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey and senior government ministers Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull will be the least affected by the federal budget by 2017-18, a new analysis shows.
Fifteen of the 16 hardest hit electorates, meanwhile, are held by the Labor Party, with low and middle income households in western Sydney and the outer suburbs of Melbourne overwhelmingly the worst off.
According to the report, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's electorate is least-affected from the budget. Photo: Rob Homer
The University of Canberra's National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) published the figures on Friday, breaking down the immediate and long-term impacts of Mr Hockey's May budget by region, suburb and electorate.

Medical Research.

Pressure on PM to deliver $20b fund

  • Brigid O’Connell
  • Herald Sun
  • October 09, 2014 12:00AM
HAROLD Mitchell is leading a charge by Australia’s universities and research institutes to push the Federal Government to follow through on establishing the $20 billion Medical ­Research Future Fund.
The media buyer used a meeting with Tony Abbott in Melbourne last night to reiterate the need for this perpetual fund to propel further medical research breakthroughs, amid fears it could be slashed to $10 billion when it goes before Parliament later this year.
Then proposed fund, which the Government has said was conditional on the $7 Medicare co-payment being passed, would double spending on medical research by distributing $1 billion a year after 2022.

GP Co-Payment.

Dutton denies $7 co-pay plan scrapped

7 October, 2014 Paul Smith
Claims of a budget retreat on the $7 GP co-payment policy cuts have been rubbished by the Federal Health Minister.
Last week it was claimed that plans to introduce legislation underpinning the reforms had been "pulled at the last minute" by Health Minister Peter Dutton (pictured) after he cancelled a briefing with the Coalition Policy Committee.
Mr Dutton's office, according to the Australian Financial Review, had told the committee the legislation was being withdrawn until a later date.

GP co-payment would crush NSW emergency departments: report

Date October 8, 2014 - 12:15AM

Nicole Hasham

State Politics reporter

An extra 500,000 people a year would choke NSW emergency departments at a cost of $80 million if the federal government proceeds with its GP co-payment, internal health department documents show.
The analysis by NSW Health has been backed by doctors and health groups who say a $7 Medicare fee for GP visits would be a disaster for the state's health system, blowing out emergency department waiting times and hurting society's sickest and poorest.
Scenarios prepared for the NSW government in May, obtained by NSW Labor, assumed a $6 co-payment, lower than the $7 fee later proposed by the federal government.

EDs to 'flood' under GP co-payment

8 October, 2014
Emergency departments in NSW will be flooded with an extra half a million people a year if the federal government introduces its GP co-payment, internal health department documents reveal.
The move would increase emergency department costs by $80 million a year according to a preliminary study prepared for the NSW government in May.
The analysis by NSW Health was based on a $6 GP fee, rather than currently planned $7 fee.
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson says the co-payment would be a "disaster".

Medicare bulk-billing rates are highest in Labor-held electorates

Sean Parnell

LABOR holds the seats with the highest bulk-billing rates and Coalition MPs represent areas where patients are most accustomed to paying to see a doctor, according to Medicare figures that deliver a political headache for the Abbott government.
The political divide over controversial budget plans for a $7 GP co-payment is laid bare in figures released by the Health Department after a Freedom of Information request from The Australian.
Before the May budget, Joe Hockey made the case for a co-payment by declaring, repeatedly, that his electorate of North Sydney had “one of the highest bulk-billing rates in Australia (despite being) one of the wealthiest electorates in Australia’’.

Abbott must ditch the GP tax and seek healthier budget solutions

Date October 9, 2014 - 12:15AM
You don't need to be a union sympathiser within NSW Health – as federal Health Minister Peter Dutton labelled the source of the data – to know that poorer people and the elderly will struggle to pay more for GP visits.
The Abbott government's proposed co-payment for visits to general practitioners has suffered another telling blow – and rightly so.
In a first budget replete with unfair, untested, ideologically driven measures not justified or even explained well to the people, the GP tax stands alongside extra interest on deferred student loans at the pinnacle of overreach, with entirely predictable negative consequences.

Hospitals warned government on casualty crush, documents show

Date October 9, 2014 - 12:15AM

Nicole Hasham

State Politics reporter

Senior staff at three Sydney hospitals warned the NSW government a $7 fee for GP visits would leave emergency departments swamped, and children, the poor and the elderly would be worst affected, internal documents reveal.
Health Minister Jillian Skinner has been accused of failing to take the federal government to task over its proposed Medicare co-payment despite a report by her department finding the state's hospital system would be overrun by 500,000 extra patients a year if it proceeds.
Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton on Wednesday claimed the data, which will do little to help his government's embattled proposal pass the Senate, was "cooked up by obvious union sympathisers" in the NSW health system.

GP tax to hit cancer patients

Date October 8, 2014 - 10:30PM

Mark Kenny

Chief political correspondent

Cancer and other chronic disease sufferers will be hit with significant advance costs for medical imaging and other pathology testing under the government's proposed $7 GP co-payment, according to evidence given to a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
The Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association has warned that previously undiscussed impacts of the fee mean people with the greatest need to get access to complex medical services will be the worst affected.
And many will remain worse off even after rebates are received.

Shock slug for cancer patients

Andrew Tillett Canberra The West Australian October 9, 2014, 4:55 am
Patients face being hit with up-front bills of up to $2200 for cancer tests under little-known changes linked to the Abbott Government's plan for Medicare co-payments.
Details of the shock slug emerged at a Senate inquiry yesterday looking at the unpopular patient co-payment announced in the May Budget.
While the Government stresses $7 is a modest amount for patients to pay to see a doctor or have a scan or blood test, the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association warns the financial burden will be much bigger for patients using expensive services such as X-rays and MRIs.

Premier Mike Baird refuses to take on Prime Minister Tony Abbott over GP co-payment despite emergency room warning

Date October 9, 2014 - 9:57PM

Nicole Hasham

State Politics reporter

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner has rejected federal government claims that forecasts of long emergency department queues under a proposed GP co-payment were "cooked up" for political gain.
But Premier Mike Baird on Thursday refused to call on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to drop the proposed $7 GP fee, even as South Australian officials warned of a casualty crush in that state if the measure proceeds.
Speaking at the opening of the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research in Sydney, Mr Abbott said the GP fee would allow "investment in the treatment and cures of the future", by largely funding a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.

Senate health inquiry: GP co-payment will increase SA hospital visits 'by 290,000 people'

October 9, 2014, 9:02 pm
The Federal Government's planned $7 GP co-payment would result in an extra 290,000 presentations a year at hospital emergency departments, South Australian health officials have told a Senate inquiry.
SA Health deputy chief executive Steve Archer told the select committee on health in Adelaide that the co-payment would also push waiting times from 20 minutes to 66 minutes.
He said the measure, proposed in the federal budget earlier this year, would cost the State Government an additional $80 million.

Co-payment costings uproar in NSW

8th Oct 2014
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner has brushed aside the prospect of a GP co-payment after revelations that her department predicted the policy would be a disaster for the state's health system.
Under a co-payment scenario modelled by NSW Health bureaucrats before the May federal budget, an extra 500,000 patients would flood into NSW hospital emergency departments at an additional cost of $80 million a year. 
The modelling, contained in a government briefing paper, warned of a blowout in ED waiting times as more patients deferred GP visits, leading to the potential loss of millions in Commonwealth National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) funding.

Cancerous co-payment

Friday, 10th October 2014
General practitioners are not often portrayed as the heroes of our public health system, but they save lives every day. I’m not a GP. I’m training to become a specialist obstetrician & gynaecologist and I work in a tertiary hospital. Every shift I’m reminded by my patients of the importance of quality primary health care.
Take Carrie. She’s a mother of three teenagers and she has cervical cancer. Her hospital visits are more frequent now. At first there were the specialist visits and biopsies, and then the chest X-rays, CT scans, MRIs. After that came the chemo-radiotherapy, the complications, the multiple admissions and the counselling. One of her kids dropped out of school to look after her. The younger two are having a hard time focusing on their studies and they’re not doing so well.

Pharmacy Related Articles.

Australians pay up to 21 times more for prescription medicines than Britain

  • 7 hours ago October 07, 2014 12:00AM
  • Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter
  •  News Corp Australia Network
AUSTRALIA is paying up to 21 times more than Britain for 19 of the 20 most commonly used prescription medicines seven years after a government policy was meant to end the rort.
It means Australian taxpayers are wasting at least $400 million a year on generic medicines and that general consumers are paying more for their medical treatments than they should.
The biggest selling prescription medicine in Australia is the cholesterol lowering treatment Atorvatstatin costs Australian patients $19.69 a pack, nearly twice the $10.45 paid by the British.

Pharmacists accused of 'price-gouging' the sick

7 October, 2014 Christie Moffat
Pharmacists have been accused of overcharging Australian patients for medicines, in a series of articles featured in News Limited publications.
The reports, published across the News Limited stable, argued that Australian patients were forced to pay “more for their medical treatments than they should”, despite pharmacists being given supposedly generous discounts from drug companies.
“Under Australia’s pharmaceutical benefits subsidy scheme the government sets the price it pays chemists for medicines, but drug companies sell the pills cheaper to chemists who make profits of up to 80%,” a report in the Daily Telegraph stated.

An open letter to the Health Minister

7 October, 2014 Christie Moffat
A community pharmacist has penned an open letter to Health Minister Peter Dutton, arguing for the Government to allocate funding for pharmacists to work in medical clinics.
In assisting GPs with the early identification of medication issues, the author, who wished to remain anonymous, believes that working in a medical clinic would help save the Government money.
The letter is below.

Guild ad campaign almost upon us

8 October, 2014
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia's innovative new PR campaign is due to kick off next week.
The ‘Discover More.Ask Your Pharmacist’ campaign will commence with prime time advertising on free-to-air and subscription television.
The advertisement will demonstrate to the public that there is a whole lot more that their local pharmacies do for their health in addition to dispensing prescriptions.
Consumers will be encouraged to "discover more" by asking their pharmacist how they can assist with health checks, pain management, after-hospital care and in-home care.

PBS price comparisons too simplistic: Medicines Australia

9 October, 2014 Christie Moffat
Claims that the Australian Government is paying more for PBS medicines compared to other countries are a “simplistic comparison” and do not account for ongoing savings achieved by simplified price disclosure, according to Medicines Australia.
In a statement, the organisation took aim at comments from health economist Dr Philip Clarke, who has said the Government is overpaying $400 million a year on PBS-listed medicines.
Dr Clarke’s comments were featured in a series of articles published by News Limited earlier this week, where he said that Australians paid more for 19 of the top 20 most commonly prescribed medications, compared to patients in Britain.
Dr Martin Cross, chairman of Medicines Australia, said that the current price disclosure policy was delivering significant savings to government and patients.
“Professor Clarke has fallen into the same trap as the Grattan Institute by cherry picking a few medicines to demonstrate his point. He is not taking into account that PBS price disclosure reforms are permanent, ongoing and unfinished, and that simple price comparisons of a small list of medicines ignore the overall effect across the PBS,” Dr Cross said.

Pharmacy plan for painkillers

Oct. 8, 2014, 8:13 p.m.
NUROFEN, Voltaren and Naprogesic are just some of the anti-inflammatory medications that will require consultation with a pharmacist before you can buy them if changes proposed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration go ahead.
The TGA recently completed a review of the cardiovascular risks associated with the use of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and the results have prompted the proposed changes.
Another option being proposed is labelling changes to improve upon consumer education.

Rebel doctor group calls for ban on drug reps

Date October 9, 2014 - 7:30PM

Harriet Alexander

Health reporter

A rebel group of doctors is lobbying colleagues to ban drug company representatives from their surgeries.
Concerned about the level of influence that pharmaceutical companies have over doctors' prescribing habits, the group is challenging doctors to pledge not to entertain "educational" visits by marketing representatives for a full year.
Representatives typically provide sandwiches and distribute branded paraphernalia while discussing their latest products, and studies indicate that doctors who routinely see them are more likely to prescribe more often and prescribe pricier drugs.

Pharmacists want to be paid to provide GP style consultations

  • October 11, 2014 12:00AM
  • Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter
  • News Corp Australia Network
PHARMACISTS want to be paid to provide GP type consultations to deliver flu vaccines and contraceptives, conduct weight checks and treat minor ailments.
The controversial plan is being proposed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia which is the professional and standards body for the nation’s 27,000 chemists, most of whom work as employees in pharmacies.
It is contained in a discussion paper likely to form the basis of a submission to the government for the next five year Community Pharmacy Agreement, which will cost taxpayers over $15 billion.

Medibank Private Sale.

Medibank Private sale a chance to rethink healthcare

Economic briefing
Alan Mitchell Economics editor
Floating Medibank Private makes sense if the private sector can run the business more efficiently than the government can, but don’t confuse the privatisation with real reform of the healthcare system.
The pressure for reform of Medicare is increasing, and not just because of the current need to get the budget back into surplus.
Rising health costs are projected by the Treasury to push the federal budget back into structural deficit over the next 40 years.

Patients the losers with Medibank privatisation

Date October 10, 2014 - 12:15AM

Toby Hall

When Medibank is privatised, will it really advocate for patients or just a stronger share price?
There is no doubt when it comes to healthcare quality, affordability is a key consideration and one we should all strive to achieve. However, two big ticket items on the health agenda at present could combine to create the perfect storm that discriminates against the poor and the very sick.
The first item; the GP co-payment, will act as a disincentive for the poor to access the care they need. Similarly, the notion of a sharemarket-listed Medibank – focused on establishing contracts exclusively with cheaper health providers –  could see Medibank patients who are very sick unable to access the private hospitals that have the expertise and infrastructure to treat their specific needs.

Medicare Locals.

Regional concerns aired over new Primary Health Care Networks

Mon 6 Oct 2014, 12:31pm
The National Rural Health Alliance says the needs of regional communities must be considered under new Primary Health Care Networks.
The Federal Government announced earlier this year that Medicare Locals would be scrapped in favour of the Networks, as of July next year.
Alliance chairman Tim Kelly says it is vital the networks allow for local input.
He says it recently met federal Health Minister Peter Dutton to discuss its concerns.

$2m bill to axe Geelong Medicare Local

WINDING up Geelong’s Medicare Local will cost $2 million, a Senate hearing has been told.
Barwon Medicare Local, which co-ordinates local primary health care services and works to fill gaps in service provision, will close when its funding ceases mid-next year.
Federal Government will replace it with a primary health network stretching to Warrnambool.
The Senate Select Committee on Health held public hearings in Geelong this week.
Barwon Medicare Local chief Jason Trethowan told the hearing long-term leases on two offices contributed to the high wind-up cost.

Health clinics back under scrutiny over missing funds

Sarah Martin

A CENTRAL Australian network of health clinics will be again investigated for financial mismanagement, two years after the federal government ordered an audit into its accounts.
The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, based in Alice Springs, is at the centre of claims that funds are “mysteriously disappearing” inappropriately.
The complaint to the Department of Health comes two years after an l audit found $208,000 had been misappropriated , and former chief executive Stephanie Bell resigned.
I also have to say reading all the articles I still have no idea what is actually going to happen with the Budget at the end of the day. Maybe the next few weeks of parliament will clarify this time.
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:

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