Thursday, August 13, 2015

2016 Budget -Parliament Back and Choppergate Fallout Starts To Subside

August 13 Edition
Budget Night was May 12, 2015. We now await economic and  activity data reporting to see how successful it was. Interestingly there are some early indications the small-business stimuli might be working.
Parliament has come back on 10th August - so we can expect things to warm up at from now! Even better Spring is just around the corner - you can tell as the birds are waking up earlier each day!
Here is some other of the recent other news and analysis.

General Budget Issues.

  • Aug 2 2015 at 3:34 PM
  • Updated Aug 2 2015 at 9:47 PM

Reform spending not taxes

The response to increasing spending on health costs should not be raising the GST, but in reforming expenditure and making individuals pay more of the health services they consume.

by Greg Lindsay
The public policy debate surrounding tax and government spending has travelled a long way since the Abbott government came to office committed to ending the "age of entitlement" – but in a direction that will sooner or later be proven unsustainable. A small step away from the entitlement mentality was the now scrapped Medicare co-payment. This proposal would have required those who could afford it to make a small contribution to the cost of their own healthcare out of their own pockets.
Opponents of the co-payment successfully argued that applying the principle of user-pays to health was unfair. Yet many of the same critics would now support tax increases to fund health services, or rather to fund a financial bailout of state health systems. Those who said no to a GP Tax six months ago, say yes to a Public Hospital Tax today and one considerably higher than a $7 per GP visit part-payment.

No, Kouk, Bozo Joe will not be smiling

at 7:33 am on August 4, 2015 | 7 comments
From the Kouk:
The federal budget is less than three months old and already Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann must be smiling like Cheshire cats with several of the key economic parameters stronger than assumed by Treasury in May.
The budget bottom line will be getting a revenue wind-fall from the fact that the iron ore price is 10 per cent higher in Australian dollar terms than was assumed in the budget.
The iron ore price has been hovering around $US52 in recent weeks, compared to a budget-time assumption of $US48, while the Australian dollar has been fallen below 74 US cents, under the 77 US cents that underpinned the budget estimates.
According to Treasury modelling, this difference in the iron ore price is worth about $4 billion to the budget bottom line over the four years of the forward estimates.

Is Tony Abbott's regime the worst federal government ever?

Date August 4, 2015 - 9:03AM

Sally Young

In addition to heading an ineffective, unpopular government with a lame legislative record, Tony Abbott could yet lose office.
The Abbott government has been in power 686 days and, in the wake of a turbulent half year capped off by the Bronwyn Bishop expense scandal, it is a valid time to ask a question that is often debated online and among political scientists. Is this the worst federal government ever?
I'm talking here about the effectiveness of the Abbott government. Can it pass legislation? Perform administration? Do Australians judge it to be effective? I'm not trying to make value judgments about whether it is a morally "good" government or whether its policies are good or bad (readers will have their own views).
The unexpectedly harsh budget of 2014 is likely go down in Australian political history as the worst received federal budget and especially because, unlike 'horror' budgets of the past, all of the pain inflicted didn't even achieve what it was intended to do – it didn't reduce the deficit. 

Health Budget Issues.

New plan to overhaul patient care

  • By Belinda Merhab
  • AAP
  • August 04, 2015 5:34PM
A SHAKE-UP of the way Australians visit their doctors could be on the cards.
IN a discussion paper handed to the federal government, the primary health-care advisory group led by former Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton says the Medicare system is failing to deal with chronic and complex health conditions.
It says the current system is fragmented, with unco-ordinated care resulting in duplication of services, frustration for patients, and a bigger financial burden for taxpayers.
Every two to three hours in Australia there's an amputation that could have been prevented with better management of diabetes, the paper says.
One possible option for shaking up the system would see patients enrol with a single health-care provider who would become their first point of care and co-ordinate all other services, like hospital or specialist appointments.

Doctors to be paid by performance under radical reforms to Medicare

  • August 04, 2015 10:00PM
  • Sue Dunlevy
AUSTRALIANS would enrol with a single GP practice that would get an annual budget to keep them well under major reforms to Medicare.
Instead of being paid a fee for each service, doctors could also be paid for performance on reducing hospitalisations or better blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol readings in patients.
And patients would be encouraged to take a greater role in managing their own health care through online education courses, wearable technology and smart phone-linked blood glucose, and other monitoring devices.
Health Minister Sussan Ley is asking the public to comment on the radical strategy that is central to government plans to rein in the cost of Medicare.

Jane Halton missed her choppergate chance to set public service's ethical bar high

Date August 3, 2015 - 10:06AM

Public Eye

A few hours before this column's deadline, Bronwyn Bishop resigned as House speaker, as was inevitable, though not before the snowballing tales of her profligacy had badly smeared Parliament. Yet one of the scandal’s sideshows – the matter of whether Finance Department secretary Jane Halton should be investigating Bishop – still poses questions.
The first of the "choppergate" stories broke on July 15. As journalist Chris Wallace noted in The Saturday Paper, Halton had spoken later that day at a women’s cocktail party hosted by the Commonwealth Bank. Wallace wrote: "Halton used it [media coverage of choppergate] as an example of sexist double standards: she dismissed its significance, suggesting that had Bishop been a man the helicopter claims would probably not have been a story. At the time it had not occurred to Halton that choppergate could, depending on how Bishop claimed the expense, give rise to a possible offence, let alone that her department would end up ruling on it."
  • Aug 5 2015 at 4:43 PM

Coalition calls expenses truce as more claims emerge

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Education Minister Christopher Pyne have effectively called a truce by failing to criticise Labor's Tony Burke for taking his family on a trip to Uluru on the taxpayer's purse.
Mr Burke, who was strident in attacking former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, was forced to defend taking his family with him to Uluru, flying business class, during school holidays in 2012, a trip that cost the taxpayer $12,707.65.
Mr Burke said the claim was within the rules and he met with managers and rangers of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and members of the Mutitjulu community in his capacity as environment minister on the same trip.
While Mr Abbott simply declined to attack Mr Burke on Wednesday, Mr Pyne has said increasing scrutiny of politicians use of expenses has become a "Salem witch trial".

Fels says mental health spending is wasted

  • August 05, 2015 4:10PM
THE federal government is wasting billions of dollars funding a mental health system that doesn't work, renowned economist Allan Fels believes.
THE chair of the National Mental Health Commission says mental health is a more significant problem for the economy than tax reform, costing the economy about $60 billion a year.
In a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Professor Fels said the current system was failing patients while providing the government with poor returns on its investment of about $10 billion every year.
"The commission's view is that much of the funding from the Commonwealth is neither effective nor efficient," he said.

Reform tax system before the wheels fall off

  • Editorial
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • August 06, 2015 12:00AM
ACCORDING to the maxim, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what if something is destined to surely break unless something is done? What if breakage is inevitable and can be clearly foreseen?
That is the current situation with Australia’s taxation system, which is headed for a destructive showdown with the forces of inflation. And this showdown will take place sooner rather than later.
As Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott ­explains today in The Daily Telegraph, our taxes are destined to ­increase significantly by 2018, even if no changes are made to the taxation system. This is due to the phenomenon known as bracket creep, which sees inflation and wage rises push people into ever-higher tax brackets.
This is not a problem solely for those on larger incomes. In fact, ­because of the way the tax system is structured, bracket creep actually impacts much harder on those earning lower incomes.

Health Insurance Issues.

Health insurance reforms next for Health Minister Sussan Ley

Sean Parnell

Health Minister Sussan Ley has agreed to look at private health reforms to make insurance less expensive, amid concerns rising premiums have undermined the sector and threaten to put further pressure on public hospitals.
One area being examined by the federal government is whether the longstanding cap on excess levels — $500 for singles and $1000 for a family policy — should be lifted to discourage unnecessar­y treatments and thereby reduce costs to both the insurer and the policyholder.
Excess levels were capped in 2000 to prevent people taking out policies with high front-end deductibles to avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge, which requires wealthier Australians to pay more tax if they do not have a compliant health insurance ­policy.
Health funds have also lobbied the government for changes to rules on expensive devices and prostheses, along with changes to hospital fees and charges, arguing that the ­Coalition’s move to ­address health inflatio­n should extend to both the public and private sectors.

NIB boss backs Medibank in battle to rein in costs

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Australia’s health insurers are joining forces in the increasingly heated debate with private hospitals on affordability and quality, with NIB the latest to enter the fight.
NIB chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon said there had been an outbreak of industry consensus and co-operation on several fronts, as there was a general sense something had to be done about controlling costs.
“Part of that is about empowering consumers to make better decisions and part of it is about ensuring we only pay for quality care and at efficient prices,” he said.
The debate recently intensified after Medibank Private cut its contract with Calvary Hospitals because the two could not agree on payments. A key sticking point was a list of 165 “highly preventable adverse events”, which Medibank has labelled mistakes it will no longer cover.

Some Calvary Hospital patients face hefty charges after contract talks with Medibank Private fail

August 5, 2015
Private hospital provider Calvary Health Care is warning it will be forced to turn away patients or charge them hefty out-of-pocket fees, after mediation over a contract dispute with Medibank Private failed.
Medibank Private insures 70,000 Tasmanians, but it is refusing to cover what it says are "preventable events" including falls in care and readmissions.
The company said new terms would be introduced when Calvary's existing contract expired at the end of the month.
Calvary chief executive Mark Doran said the company may have to refuse Medibank Private clients.

AMA president Brian Owler slams Medibank Private as out of touch

Date August 7, 2015 - 6:08PM

Henry Belot

Canberra Times Reporter

Australian Medical Association president Professor Brian Owler says Medibank Private had used aggressive behaviour to negotiate new contracts with private hospitals. Photo: Andrew Meares
Australian Medical Association president Professor Brian Owler has labelled Medibank Private as out of touch and offered to brief the Prime Minister on its dispute with Calvary Health Care..
His comments come after a last-gasp effort to renew a contract between Australia's largest health insurer, Medibank Private, and Calvary Health Care failed at mediation on Thursday.
The breakdown in mediation means thousands of ACT patients may be forced to pay more for hospital care unless the two parties can reach a final agreement before August 31.
In July, Medibank Private initiated termination proceedings after months of unsuccessful negotiations and a disagreement about quality criteria and market rates.

Pharmacy Issues.

6CPA review coming soon

3 August, 2015 Chris Brooker
The planned review of 6CPA remuneration and location rule arrangements will kick off next month (September 2015), the health minister has announced.
Speaking at PSA15 in Sydney, Federal Minister for Health Sussan Ley (pictured) said the “independent, public review” would be completed by July 2017 “at the latest”.
“I am sure that all professional pharmacists as well as pharmacy owners will also take great interest in the review of pharmacy remuneration and location rules,” Ms Ley said.
“It will give us insights not only in relation to the location of pharmacies and the impact of the current location rules.”
Meanwhile, Ms Ley also revealed the first tranche of 6CPA pilot professional service programs will commence in 2016.

Getting their cut

3 August, 2015 Chris Brooker
Concerns are growing that the failure to gain an increase in wholesaler remuneration during 6CPA negotiations could impact community pharmacy services.  
While funding for many pharmacy services increased and was CPI indexed in the 6CPA, CSO funding remains unindexed and static.
George Tambassis, national president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia warns that wholesaler service standards may change as a result of the 6CPA.
“The CSO has not been indexed, the wholesaler mark-up is unchanged. So service standards may change.”

Damning auditor's report over Pharmacy Guild agreement results in little action

Date August 5, 2015 - 6:16PM

Harriet Alexander

Health Reporter

The Department of Health has taken no action against staff whose negotiation of an agreement with community pharmacists resulted in administrative errors and failed to deliver $1 billion in expected savings.
A withering audit of the 2010 deal struck between the federal government and the Pharmacy Guild found it lacked transparency and was messy in its implementation.
The fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement committed the government to paying $15.4 billion to the Pharmacy Guild to dispense medicines listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to the public over five years.
The Australian National Audit Office reported in March that there were "shortcomings in key aspects of Health's administration at the development, negotiation and implementation phases" of the agreement.
These included the department's failure to keep official records of its negotiations with Pharmacy Guild officials, which was "not consistent with sound practice", and its re-allocation of money between programs after the contract had been signed, without ministerial approval.

Tambassis gives glowing endorsement

5 August, 2015 Meg Pigram
Sweeping reforms proposed for the primary health care system have been endorsed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
A federal government appointed advisory group has presented its discussion paper  “Better outcomes for people living Chronic and Complex Health Conditions through Primary Health Care” saying the Medicare system is failing to deal with chronic and complex health conditions.
The paper says the current health system is fragmented, with unco-ordinated care resulting in the duplication of services, frustration for patients, and a bigger financial burden for taxpayers.  The paper included enrolling people to a single provider who would coordinate the multi-disciplinary care the patient received rather than the patient coordinating their care, set chronic disease payments for a defined package of care rather than individual services and international methods of best practice.

Medicine exports fall 30 per cent, sparking calls for policy change

Date August 8, 2015 - 12:15AM

Judith Ireland

National political reporter

Ian Macfarlane's office has said pharmaceuticals ''is a key economic area in which Australia has the best potential to compete internationally''. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Australia's drug exports have slumped, falling 30 per cent over the past year, to put manufactured medicines way behind the ailing car industry. 
An analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics trade figures released this week found that Australia's pharmaceutical export industry is now worth about $2.5 billion a year, a significant drop from 2012 when it was worth more than $4 billion.
The latest figures, which Medicines Australia says should be "ringing alarm bells" in the federal government, show drugs have fallen behind car exports, which are worth more than $3 billion. Pharmaceuticals are also on track to drop behind the wine export industry, which is worth just over $2 billion a year.  
It is going to be very interesting to see what happens to the polls and consumer confidence over the next 2-3 months. With the pollies back will be interesting to see what makes the big news.  We are seeing reasonable consumer confidence now so I hope the pollies coming back does not kill it!

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