Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review Of The Ongoing Post - Budget Controversy 19th March 2015. 2016 Budget Strategy Not Clear At All!

Budget Night was on Tuesday 13th May, 2014 and it is still not finalised. Not much time left before 2016 Budget is upon us.
Both major health and education changes as well as pension changes are still stuck and we have a new Families Package being floated . Also we have less than 2 sitting weeks in Parliament before the next Budget - due to be  handed down Tuesday 12th , May 2015.
Articles this week include.

General Budget Issues.

Joe Hockey stands by budget measures in Senate

Joe Kelly

JOE HOCKEY has warned the quantum of the savings from the Abbott government’s 2014 budget must be obtained, but signalled the priority in 2015 will be to boost economic growth rather than to make further spending cuts.
The Treasurer said that structural savings were essential to ensure the viability of the tax system moving forward, declaring that failure on this score would make it untenable to remedy bracket creep in the near future.
Mr Hockey also confirmed that a sunset clause would apply to the plan to index the pension to inflation from 2017 ensuring it will not be a permanent change and suggesting a more generous arrangement could be struck once the budget returned to surplus.

Doomsayers contort the debt debate

IF you listen to members of the Abbott government, you’d be forgiven for thinking there are two types of Australians: those who think Australia is going broke and those who think nothing should be done in the interests of sensible improvements to the budget bottom line.
There is, of course, a third type: those of us who believe in sensible measures in the budget grounded in a debate held in a mature and proper context.
Whether in opposition or government, the Liberal Party has embraced inflammatory rhetoric when it comes to debt and deficit.

Robb rejects drug monopolies

Sid Maher

TRADE Minister Andrew Robb has directly rejected suggestions the government will agree to measures that increase the cost of medicines as part of Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.
The University of NSW Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation, based on leaked texts of the deal, claimed the US was seeking to prevent signatories from refusing to grant patents for minor variations to drugs even when there was no evidence of additional benefit.
The effect of the practice, called “evergreening”, allows manufacturers to extend their monopolies on new drugs and frustrates competition.

Political Instability.

Tony Abbott does not like what government is doing to pensions: Liberal MP

Date March 11, 2015 - 8:15PM

Heath Aston

Political reporter

Prime Minister Tony Abbott "does not love" the government's plan to peg the age pension at a lower rate and if alternative savings can be found and the budget returned to surplus, a higher rate of increase could be reapplied sooner, a Liberal MP said.
The contribution to the debate on pensions by NSW Liberal Angus Taylor, a strong ally of Mr Abbott, comes amid a push by some Coalition backbenchers to force some kind of backdown on the policy.
Earlier in the week, Liberal backbencher Andrew Laming warned there were "large missiles and torpedoes" aimed at the pension plan that will see increases tied to inflation rather than wages growth from July 2017.

Abbott fails to fight for causes

"A cause worth fighting for is worth fighting for to the end."
This quote from former US president Grover Cleveland might have been Tony Abbott's mantra. But it's gone by the wayside in recent months.
Having argued against taxpayer handouts for the car industry, the government this week announced it wouldn't be going ahead with its proposed cut to a key funding program.
Asked to justify the cut before the September 2013 election, Abbott said: "No adult prime minister in the heat of an election campaign, in panic over polls, charges down the street waving a blank cheque after anyone."

Health Budget Issues.

11 March 2015, 6.32am AEDT

Federal health spending is forecast to slow, but states face rising bills

Author Stephen Duckett
The narrative for the upcoming budget appears to be in a state of flux. Is it still to be “tough love” or “we’re from the government and here to help you”?
The framers of the health spending narrative face the same quandary. For the last 15 months all we have heard is the “health system is unsustainable” discourse. However, last week’s Intergenerational Report delivered a confusing prediction: Commonwealth health expenditure will decline over the next two decades.
Previous Grattan Institute work has shown health to be the fastest-growing area of government spending. And the reason for the shift in the 2015 Intergenerational Report is not changed assumptions, since the 2015 ones are very similar to those in previous reports. So, how can this be?

Private health insurers urged to ditch homeopathy cover

Date March 12, 2015 - 7:30AM

Joanna Heath

Private health insurers are being urged to drop cover for homeopathy after a landmark study by the National Health and Medical Research Council found no credible evidence it is effective in treating health problems.
"I would think in the current financial constraints that health insurers private and public should be looking at ineffective versus effective treatments. Things that haven't been shown to be effective I wouldn't want to see funded publicly or privately," chairman of the NHMRC Homeopathy Working Committee, Professor Paul Glasziou said.

Sussan Ley holds fire on rebates for ‘useless’ natural therapies

Sean Parnell

TAXPAYERS may continue to subsidise the use of unproven natural therapies by health fund members despite the nation’s leading medical research body finding homeopathy to be a waste of money and in some cases harmful.
As foreshadowed by The ­Australian in January, the ­National Health and Medical ­Research Council yesterday ­declared ­homeopathy to be no ­better than a placebo, warning anyone who used it instead of ­evidence-based treatments would be risking their health.
Homeopathy was the first of 17 natural therapies to be scrutinised by the NHMRC as part of a ­review of the scope of the private health insurance rebate initiated by the former Labor government.

Patients could be casualty of $57 billion hospital funding shortfall over next 10 years

Date March 14, 2015 - 12:15AM

Dan Harrison, Gareth Hutchens

Patients could cop the brunt of a $57 billion hospital funding shortfall that lies behind the miraculous budget turnaround projected by Joe Hockey in the Intergenerational Report.
The yawning funding gap, that threatens to blow out state budgets as well as hospital waiting lists, will be central to the Abbott government's looming white paper on federalism, which NSW Premier Mike Baird insists must be used to resolve the problem.
The Abbott government is booking savings of $57 billion over 10 years as a result of dismantling the hospital funding system put in place by Labor, and from 2017 moving to a new system in which states receive block grants that are adjusted for population growth and inflation as measured by the consumer price index.

Co-Payment Issues.

Medicare co-payment could still happen - bulk-billed patients may face gap fees

Date March 8, 2015 - 8:30PM

Dan Harrison

Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent

Despite declaring its Medicare co-payment "dead, buried and cremated," the Abbott Government is considering proposals to give GPs the option of charging gap fees to bulk-billed patients.
Under the current rules, if a doctor bulk-bills a patient, they must accept the Medicare rebate of $37.05 as full payment for the service. Alternatively, the doctor must forgo the Medicare rebate and charge the patient a higher fee upfront, usually about $70. The patient then claims the $37.05 rebate from Medicare.
Such a change would reduce out-of-pocket costs for patients who already pay upfront to see their doctor, but would mean the end of free care for some patients, and some advocates predict the change would push up fees over time.

Why the government thinks bulk billing can go

Date March 9, 2015 - 3:14PM

Marc Moncrief

The medicare co-payment, or some variation thereof, is reportedly back on the table.
It was only a week ago the issue was closed, with Health Minister Sussan Ley telling Coalition MPs "we are not pursuing it at all". 
It's possible no-one in the Coalition party room knew about the chart below, but it's unlikely, and it could lead Liberal MPs to think tinkering with bulk billing is a politically feasible thing to do. It shows the proportion of medical services bulk billed in each electorate.
As the chart makes clear, the electorates with the largest proportion of services bulk billed are overwhelmingly Labor (red), while those with less bulk billing are overwhelmingly Liberal (blue). The yellow bars represent National electorates.

Medical Research Fund.

$20b medical research fund must proceed

Date March 8, 2015 - 11:45PM

Robin Fitzsimons

Australia needs to commit more to medical research or pay high prices to others who develop treatments.
The GP co-payment has gone. Its planned introduction was linked to a stunning $20 billion Australian commitment to a Medical Research Future Fund. The world noticed.
The issues are now ostensibly again separate. But when will the $20 billion be achieved? Any delay would prejudice Australians' access to modern treatments. And risk its global  research reputation.
The federal government still has not properly explained this most visionary policy of the budget. Put simply, unless we expeditiously invest in medical research Australia will have fewer resources than other developed countries to treat serious illness.

Pharmacy Issues.

Greens call for audit inquiry

9 March, 2015 Chris Brooker
The Australian Greens are calling for a public inquiry into the administration of the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement in the wake of criticisms contained in the recent program audit. 
A report by the Australian National Audit Office, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, 5 March, raised serious concerns over aspects of the administration and negotiation of the 5CPA.
Now Greens health spokesperson Dr Richard Di Natale (pictured) has added his voice to calls by Professional Pharmacists Australia and the Consumers Health Forum for an inquiry to investigate the reports findings.

No cost cutting immunity for pharmacy: Ley

12 March, 2015 Christie Moffat
Community pharmacy and the PBS remain in the government’s sights for future funding cuts, the health minister says.
Speaking at APP 2015, Health Minster Sussan Ley (pictured) told delegates the government was committed to finding the most cost-effective solutions for the health system, and hinted this could affect future pharmacy funding.
Ms Ley acknowledged the impending 6CPA negotiations, and said that the Department of Health supported the expansion of the pharmacist’s role – however, the industry should prepare itself for some “tough decisions” in the future.

Pharmacists reluctant to give up on homeopathy

13 March, 2015 Alice Klein
The leader of Australia’s 27,000 pharmacists has rejected calls for pharmacies to remove homeopathic products from their shelves, suggesting they could still be used as effective placebos.
The pharmacy profession is under pressure to stop selling homeopathic products to patients after the NHMRC declared there were "no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective".
But the president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Grant Kardachi, said the issue was not black and white, and it could be worthwhile for pharmacists to hold minimal homeopathic stocks.

Pharmacists' clout blunts courageous call from captain Abbott

Date March 14, 2015 - 9:30PM

Paul Malone

Three months ago Prime Minister Tony Abbott was in "debt-and-deficit" mode when he addressed the Pharmacy Guild of Australia's annual dinner.
Reminding the guild that the Howard Coalition government had generated surpluses and Labor governments had generated deficits, he said times were now different to those of just a few years ago and "I cannot stand up and say to you that government will no longer be looking for savings".
The audience had no doubts about which program he was referring to and where he wanted savings.  Although he didn't name it, he was clearly talking about savings taxpayers' dollars in negotiating the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, which needs to be concluded before the old agreement expires in June.

How a pharmacy monopoly pushes up your medicine price and makes pharmacies million dollar businesses

  • March 15, 2015 12:00AM
  • Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter
  •  Herald Sun
THEY are the taxpayer funded pharmacy millionaires, 941 chemist shops making more than a million dollars a year from a system that’s hurting consumers and taxpayers.
A shocking audit report has revealed how the taxpayer funded $15.4 billion pharmacy agreement that stifles competition is turning one in six pharmacies into million dollar businesses.
The same system is forcing consumers to pay inflated prices for medicines and sees a $1.10 pack of aspirin cost a patient $13.31.
I also have to say reading all the articles I still have no idea what is actually going to happen with the 2015 (or the 2016) Budget (or the Government) at the end of the day. With the Co-Payment gone - but muttering about other ideas growing louder - but the continuing need for Budget savings continuing we have to ask what next?
One wonders for how much longer all this will go on and just what impact a apparently almost inevitable change of leader might have? I think that change is still coming.
It is interesting to see the Pharmacy Guild under pressure from a recent audit of the Community Pharmacy Agreement and where money was spent.

No comments: