Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Macro View - General And Health News Relevant To E-Health And Health In General.

October 29 Edition
Well this is the week calm returns with the pollies away for another week and a half.
As always politics and policy inevitably get mixed up in all this so a wide range of views get canvassed.
It is interesting just how quickly the new government is working to get rid of all the ‘stinkers’ (Phil Coorey) in the 2014 and 2015 Budgets.
Interestingly the exclusions of diseases from health insurance is becoming a hot issue, as people discover 'cheap' health insurance may be a big let down.
Here is some other of the recent other news and analysis.

The Political Scene.

Turnbull stands by policies as Labor lags

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is standing by Abbott government policies on health, education and other budget savings, as Labor seeks to link him to his dumped predecessor.
The opposition used parliament on Monday to quiz Mr Turnbull on whether he still backed a raft of unpopular policies including university deregulation, the Medicare co-payment and $80 billion in slowed-down spending on schools and hospitals.
"All of our existing policies and proposals, whether they are before this house or in the policy statements by ministers, remain on foot," Mr Turnbull said.

General Budget Issues.

Warning about further cuts to the public service in ACT due to budget 'red ink': report

Date October 18, 2015 - 11:45PM

Ross Peake

Senior reporter for The Canberra Times

The federal public service could be hit with another round of swingeing cuts to rescue the Budget from a "sea of red ink", according to an economic forecast to be released on Monday.
It warns that new Treasurer Scott Morrison is already increasing the rhetoric about spending being the problem, not revenue.
However, the Deloitte Access Economics Business Outlook says job growth in the ACT has continued to pick up, growth in retail sales is slightly ahead of the national average and small business confidence is also slightly ahead of the national average.
  • Updated Oct 20 2015 at 9:00 AM

Budget repair a difficult and long-term challenge, says Turnbull

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull left open the door to further delays returning the budget to surplus – one of the biggest challenges facing his government – after the independent Budget Office warned slow economic growth would mean less money for government services.
With the Coalition swinging its focus towards preparations for the mid-year budget update, which is due within eight weeks, Mr Turnbull cautioned that delivering a budget surplus would be a "very difficult … and long-term challenge".
The remarks are a sign the government is eager to manage expectations about how quickly it can repair the budget, which is under pressure from falling commodity prices, lower sharemarket dividends and faltering wages growth.
By promising to pursue policies that boost economic growth, spur innovation and encourage infrastructure investment, Mr Turnbull has probably made it harder to balance the budget. The full-year 2015-16 budget deficit is forecast to be $35.1 billion. Gross government debt hit a record $402 billion on Friday.

Budget projections to be revised: Morrison

  • AAP
  • 20 Oct, 5:14 PM
Treasurer Scott Morrison says the projection of a return to budget balance within four years will be revised by the end of the year.
The current budget papers project a balanced budget in 2019/20 after a series of deficits.
Asked whether he stood by the projection, Mr Morrison told Sky News on Tuesday the latest figures would not be known until the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook due in December.
"Those projections and those forecasts will be revised in MYEFO and refreshed," Mr Morrison said.
  • Oct 20 2015 at 5:09 PM
  • Updated Oct 20 2015 at 8:33 PM

Scott Morrison waters down cuts to family payments

The government has watered down some of the harshest cuts proposed in its notorious 2014 budget a bid to secure a passage through the Senate.
Just after announcing the government's response to the financial system inquiry, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Social Services Minister Chris Porter secured the support of the Coalition party room to offer the compromises.
These include lifting from six years to 13 years the age of a family's youngest child at which the government would cut off family tax benefit part B payments.
Family tax benefit part B is paid to single-income families and is means tested at $100,000 a year. In the 2014 budget the government sought to lower the cut-off age from 16 to six but has been unable to get it through the Senate. The measure was budgeted to save $5.1 billion over the next four years.

Families win as Coalition eases cuts to benefits

  • The Australian
  • October 21, 2015 12:11PM

David Crowe

Rosie Lewis

Treasurer Scott Morrison has labelled the government’s compromise package on cuts to family tax benefits a “better offer”, as the Turnbull government retreats on the controversial policy from last year’s unpopular budget.
Mr Morrison said today’s package was the product of months of negotiations with Labor and the crossbench, but the opposition and some independent senators have already expressed some concerns about the new proposal.
“It’s a better package, it’s a better offer and it also achieves the government’s savings objectives so we haven’t had to walk away from that and nor would we because as a government we know you’ve got to pay for what you spend,” Mr Morrison said.
  • Oct 22 2015 at 4:17 PM
  • Updated Oct 22 2015 at 5:49 PM

RBA makes $6.1b from falling $A

Treasurer Scott Morrison will be the main beneficiary of a $1.6 billion windfall from the Reserve Bank of Australia after it generated more than $6 billion in profit from the falling Australian dollar.
The payment from the central bank to Treasury's coffers - which was made on September 3, a day after the Reserve Bank's accounts were finalised - is the biggest to government in 13 years, except for Wayne Swan's 2009 draw-down of $5.2 billion.
Determined by both Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens and former Treasurer Joe Hockey, the payment is almost equivalent to what the bank delivered Canberra over the previous five years.

Family tax benefit cuts: more than 130,000 single parents would lose out

Date October 22, 2015 - 6:01PM

Judith Ireland

National political reporter

Family tax benefits revamped

The government remodels its family welfare changes to pass the senate while still delivering savings.
More than 130,000 single parents stand to lose family benefits under the Turnbull government's family payments plan. 
Department of Social Services officials have told a Senate committee in Canberra that 136,000 single parents will see a reduction in family tax benefit part B once their youngest child turns 13, if the government gets the green light from the Senate for its new package

Grandparents and single parents to be spared in welfare cuts — others to lose up to $5700-a-year

October 25, 2015 12:00am
Samantha Maiden National political editor The Sunday Telegraph
TREASURER Scott Morrison has offered to exempt grandparent carers and some single parents from tough family ­payment cuts that will slash up to $5700-a-year from families with teenagers.
In an exclusive interview, the Treasurer said it was vital to secure Labor’s support for the budget savings in the ­welfare portfolio to pay for childcare reform.
Parents face a double hit under Malcolm Turnbull’s “fairer’’ family payments plan because of the combined impact of the family tax benefit changes and the looming abolition of the Schoolkids Bonus.
The hit to family budgets is designed to encourage parents to get back into the workforce but will strip payments from around 1.7 million low and middle income families.

Health Budget Issues.

9:58am October 21, 2015

Medicare safety nets being merged

The government is tidying up the Medicare safety net.
Health Minister Sussan Ley on Wednesday introduced a bill to parliament to remove the two existing safety nets and the Greatest Permissible Gap and replace them with a single safety net.
Ms Ley said the change would ensure a strong safety net continues to protect all Australians from high costs for medical services provided out of hospital.
The current safety nets were complicated and confusing, had different thresholds and were inconsistent.

Digging deeper hole on hospital

October 21, 20159:48pm
FEDERAL Health Minister Sussan Ley has warned the CLP Government that any delays at the Palmerston Hospital will be at the Territory’s expense and that the situation will be monitored.
The warning comes after revelations that the so-called first pour of concrete for a central stairwell at the hospital site has been buried in dirt and abandoned.
And yesterday NT Health Minister John Elferink continued to dig his own hole, blowing up in a press conference twice while trying to explain why last Friday’s concrete pour was not a $20,000 taxpayer-funded publicity stunt.

Labor asks for audit of funds for hospital where hole was dug and filled in

Northern Territory government denies media event to mark the first concrete pour was staged but Labor senator and MPs ask auditor general to investigate
Helen Davidson in Darwin
The federal Labor party has written to the auditor general requesting the funding of a Northern Territory hospital at the centre of an alleged government media stunt be examined.
The Palmerston hospital project, which has $110m in federal funding, came under scrutiny this week when the NT government was accused of staging a media stunt at the construction site. The health minister, John Elferink, invited media to attend the first concrete pour last Friday, only for the hole to be filled in and covered up in the days following.
The NT government denied the event was staged and said construction site managers Lend Lease filled it in for “public safety” but did not answer questions on why it was dug in the first place or who made the decision.

Business plots Medicare takeover

Date October 21, 2015 - 11:30PM

Noel Towell

Reporter for The Canberra Times

Big companies want to take over the processing of Medicare claims and assess eligibility for benefits as well as run the agency's call centres and other functions, internal Health Department documents reveal.
The federal government is considering bringing in a private player to take over Medicare's payment system but documents released under FOI laws show that big business is hungry for a much bigger chunk of the Medicare pie.
The department has been approached by private-sector players who want to take over claims processing, benefit assessment, call centres and registrations.
The documents were release after an FOI request by the Community and Public Sector Union, which is bitterly opposed to any outsourcing, fearing its members at Medicare's parent department Human Services might lose their jobs.

Medicare: 'Thousands more' to receive benefits under merged scheme

Date October 21, 2015 - 7:35PM

Jane Lee

The Turnbull government will pay thousands more Medicare benefits to help patients with out-of-hospital costs under a plan expected to save it millions of dollars, a Senate estimates hearing has been told.
Health Minister Sussan Ley introduced the plan to merge two Medicare Safety Nets into Parliament on Tuesday. The changes will lower the spending thresholds required for patients to access benefits, but cap the benefits payable for individual medical services once this has been reached.
Ms Ley said the plan offered patients up to one-and-a-half times the fee for a medical procedure once they reached their safety net. It was expected to save $266.7 million over five years, which would go into the Medical Research Future Fund.

Medical Future Fund.

Scientists in sales pitch for Medical Research Future Fund

  • The Australian
  • October 19, 2015 12:00AM

Rosie Lewis

Australians will be asked to embrace the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund as leading scientists launch a national campaign to expose the “critical role” it will play in the future health of the country.
With notable names such as Gustav Nossal, Ita Buttrose, Natasha Stott Despoja, Patrick McGorry and Carrie Bickmore volunteering to front the campaign, it will run on TV and online and highlight the need to invest in treatments and cures for conditions such as dementia, brain cancer, mental illness and heart disease.
The fund was one of the Abbott government’s signature budget measures last year and passed the Senate in August despite the dumping of the controversial GP co-payment that had been designed to bankroll it.
Ms Buttrose, Alzheimer’s Australia national ambassador, said it was “imperative” the nation invested in medical research to find treatments and a way to slow down the progression of dementia.

Health Insurance Issues.

Health funds demand action on overservicing

  • The Australian
  • October 20, 2015 12:00AM

Sean Parnell

The government must target overservicing by doctors in both the public and private sectors to bring spiralling costs under control, leading health funds say.
With cost pressures prompting insurers to consider premium ­increases again, Health Minister Sussan Ley has agreed to address affordability issues in the sector.
A separate Medicare review will have flow-on effects, potentially reducing government ­rebates and benefit outlays, but funds Bupa and HCF want more action on overservicing.
The managing director of Bupa’s health insurance business in Australia, Dwayne Crombie, said there were “perverse incentives” that led doctors to see, test, scan and treat more patients and conditions than necessary. “There is quite a bit of inappropriate care and overservicing going on and it’s pretty hard to question doctors on whether it is needed,” he said.

Watchdog blasts health insurers

Andrew Tillett Canberra
October 21, 2015, 12:30 am
Health fund members are confused and potentially misled by insurers about their cover and slugged with shock out-of-pocket costs, the competition watchdogs warns.
In a scathing report on the industry, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says a “number of market failures” left customers struggling to compare policies because they were so complex.
The Turnbull Government seized on the report to promise a fix for the health insurance industry’s ailments.
The insurer’s peak lobby group laid the blame for complexity on government regulation of the sector and argued that the raft of policies on offer was good for consumer choice.

Health fund covers 88-year-old man for baby but not hip replacement

October 24, 20154:55pm
Stuck ... Health fund exclusions leave patients without cover.
Sue Dunlevy News Corp Australia Network
ELDERLY men are being sold health insurance that covers them for having a baby but not a hip replacement as private hospitals warn health fund exclusions have reached crisis point.
Taxpayers spend $6 billion a year subsidising private health insurance but the number of people who find their fund doesn’t cover their surgery has tripled in the last few years.
Just days after the consumer watchdog, the ACCC, set up an inquiry to put health funds through the wringer, a News Corp investigation has found many people are finding their health funds desert them when they need help.

ACCC report on private health insurance – an analysis

Editor: Jennifer Doggett Author: Ian McAuley. John Menadue and Jennifer Doggett on: October 24, 2015
Last Tuesday the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its  report on private health insurance.  Private health insurance (PHI) was also in the news a day later with the standing down of the CEO of Medibank Private, the largest PHI company.
In the following piece, Ian McAuley, John Menadue and Jennifer Doggett analyse the report and discuss its implications for the future of private health insurance policy. In particular they challenge the Report’s underlying assumption that competition is desirable (or even possible) in many areas of health care. They write:
The ACCC report has been a regular report since 1999, when the Howard Government introduced a swag of subsidies for private health insurance. It covers specific “consumer” issues, such as possible false or misleading representation of products, anti-competitive behaviour, and the incidence of unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.
It has been an interesting time with the new Government settling in and all sorts of options now back on the table, including the Harper Competition Review - pharmacy might be worried. Health is also clearly under review as far as its budget is concerned. Lots to keep up with here! Enjoy.

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