Tuesday, December 22, 2015

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

December 22 Edition
Here is some other of the recent other news and analysis.
Really a big week post Parliament. Tuesday brought us the MYEFO and very grumpy pathology and aged care industries and then we had 2/3 of the cost of the PCEHR spent to save many, many Hep C sufferers with $100,000 per treatment drugs!
On the pathology ruckus this article explains it best and really slams the Government’s spin with the line:

Labor blows $500m for 1% increase in pathology bulk-billing rates

This article from The Australian explains the truth.

Rural pathology labs face closure if subsidies cut

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

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Rural pathology centres could close and patients forced to pay for blood tests if the federal government wins its battle to cut industry subsidies. But it is a battle the ­sector is ready to fight and hopes to win.
Pathology and diagnostic imaging providers said they were “blindsided” this week when the government announced in its budget update that it would save $650 million over four years by removing the subsidies for pathology and diagnostic imaging services, and reducing the incentive for MRI services from 15 per cent to 10 per cent of the Medicare fee.
Primary Health Care and Sonic Healthcare, the country’s two biggest pathology providers, took a tumble on the Australian market following the announcement and both warned they would have to introduce a co-payment to offset the cuts.
Health Minister Sussan Ley is not shying away from a fight and called on providers to show where the $500m incentive the government had given them had gone, given bulk billing rates had only moved one per cent to 87 per cent. Her argument is the incentive has not done what it was designed to do and that instead companies had enjoyed an extra revenue stream funded by taxpayers.
The incentive was introduced by the previous Labor government. That government had cut the patient episode fee for pathology from $15 to $6 but concerned about a breakout of private billing it simultaneously introduced a “bulk-billing incentive fee” of about $3 to partially offset that loss. Providers said it was not designed to increase bulk billing levels but to maintain bulk billing levels at what it was before the episode fee cut.
When the then health minister Nicola Roxon announced the incentive in May 2009, she said the measure was an incentive for providers to “maintain” or “increase” bulk-billing rates. The 2010-11 budget outlined that the target for bulk-billing rates for pathology was 86 per cent, which it has been maintained at.
Lots more here:
Read the article closely and the spin just leaps off the page - Naughty Government!

General Budget Issues.

Treasurer Scott Morrison to unveil $5 billion in budget cuts in mid-year economic update

Date December 14, 2015 - 5:57AM

Heath Aston

Political reporter

Bush's best tech ideas get financial backing

Millions of dollars will benefit Australia's innovation hub that will back 'digital agriculture' entrepreneurs. Vision courtesy ABC News 24.
Treasurer Scott Morrison will this week reveal new budget cuts worth $5 billion over four years.
Every dollar in new spending announced since the May budget - which includes Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's $1.1 billion innovation strategy and the $700 million cost of resettling 12,000 Syrian refugees - will be offset through savings, Mr Morrison insisted on Sunday.

The MYEFO report won’t be pretty

  • Chris Bowen
  • The Australian
  • December 14, 2015 12:00AM
The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook to be released tomorrow is a progress report on the Abbott-Turnbull government’s success against their promises on budget and economic management. It will not be a pretty ­picture.
The release of the Deloitte budget monitor and other market reports in recent weeks made for sober reading, with budget deficits forecast to deteriorate by up to $38 billion. This comes on top of the Coalition doubling deficits over the year to the 2015 budget.
After decrying for years that spending was out of control, spending is up, not down, since the election. The Treasurer says it’s all about “controlling expenditure” but when you look at the facts, spending was forecast to be 24.6 per cent of GDP this financial year at election time. Now it’s 25.9 per cent, equivalent to a $20bn spending blowout which has contributed to the $67bn spike in net debt since the election.

Storm clouds gathering over share market

December 14, 2015 12:00am
John Beveridge Herald Sun
BUCKLE up the seat belts, this week is going to be a topsy-turvy one on the Australian share market as two big factors stir up trouble.
The first is the release tomorrow of the Federal Government’s midyear economic and fiscal outlook (MYEFO).
In a good year, this document is meant to show that the annual budget is tracking along nicely, but this year it will be more like a horror story that has strayed far away from the original script. With iron ore and general commodity prices crashing as Chinese growth slows and wages growth in Australia almost non-existent, the May Budget deficit forecast of $35 billion is likely to be blown out of the water as tax receipts come up well short of expectations.

Ending four tax lurks would deliver $38 billion budget relief for Scott Morrison, budget office finds

Date December 13, 2015 - 11:45PM

Heath Aston

Political reporter

The latest worsening of the budget deficit, to be revealed by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Tuesday, could be plugged by abolishing a handful of what the Greens claim are "unfair tax breaks".
Research by the independent Parliament Budget Office, conducted for the party, found the government would be $38 billion better off over four years if four entrenched tax lurks, including negative gearing, capital gains tax discounts and public subsidies for fossil fuels, were abolished.
The PBO's projection was also based on a scenario where Australia's flat rate 15 per cent tax on superannuation contributions was replaced with a progressive system in which the top rate would be 30 per cent on contributions above $150,000 a year.

Tough, sound decisions are needed to fix budget

  • The Australian
  • December 15, 2015 12:00AM
Today’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook should herald the arrival of decision time for Malcolm Turnbull and his refreshed government. While abolishing royal honorifics, lifting wind farm bans and attempting to foster start-ups are all well and good, the real problem the government faces is the increasingly dire state of the federal budget. And unlike many global and social dilemmas, this is one the Coalition actually can fix. The budget has been in deficit since 2008, with the bottom line worsening under Labor and Coalition governments. For all the talk of a so-called revenue problem, federal tax receipts — just shy of $400 billion this financial year — have grown healthily every year since 2009. But that hasn’t been and won’t be enough to catch runaway spending, a legacy of irresponsible decisions by successive governments of both persuasions for more than a decade.
According to Joe Hockey’s second and last budget in May, spending is forecast to weigh in at a whopping 25.9 per cent of gross domestic product this year, a far cry from 23.1 per cent in Peter Costello’s final 2007 budget. If the spending share had been kept at that level the budget now would be easily in surplus. Mr Hockey also foresaw revenue magically whirring back to a 20-year high of 25.2 per cent of GDP by 2018 — almost enough to close the gap with spending. China’s slowdown combined with the biggest slump in Australia’s terms of trade since the late 1950s then quickly put paid to that idea, and today Scott Morrison is expected to announce a blowout in the budget deficit of between $15bn and $60bn over the forward estimates.

2016 Outlook: One More Miracle?

Australia’s economic expansion is on the brink of turning 100 – that is, 100 quarters (or 25 years) without a recession.
By Adam Bowe, Robert Mead December 2015
Australia’s economic expansion is on the brink of turning 100 in 2016 – that is, 100 quarters (or 25 years) without a recession. That is remarkable, considering the economic volatility the world and specifically the Asian region have experienced over this period. From Asia’s financial crisis to the global financial crisis and mining boom-to-bust, Australia has had only three isolated quarters of negative real GDP growth over a quarter of a century. So should investors prepare for a centennial celebration or brace for growing recession risks? Can Australia manage one more miracle? Portfolio managers Rob Mead and Adam Bowe discuss the outlook for Australia and investment opportunities in 2016.

Budget review paints bleak picture

Shane Wright, Economics Editor
December 15, 2015, 10:00 am
Cuts in health spending and aged care have been revealed by the Turnbull Government as it battles a near $34 billion collapse in revenue that has spiked Federal debt and pushed back any Budget surplus until next decade.
The Government’s mid-year Budget update, released this morning, shows a blowout in every Budget deficit over the next four years.
After predicting a $35.1 billion deficit in May for this year, to be followed by a $25.8 billion shortfall in 2016-17, Treasurer Scott Morrison today said the deficits would be larger.
  • Dec 15 2015 at 5:26 PM

Iron ore downgrade wipes $7b from budget

The Federal Government has cut its key iron ore price forecast by $US9 a tonne for 2015-16, wiping $7 billion from its anticipated revenue take over the forward estimates.
The updated commodity price forecasts, contained in its mid-year economic update on Tuesday, form part of a $26 billion blow out in the budget deficit over four years, compared to the May budget.
Iron ore price assumptions for this financial year have been scaled back from US$48 per tonne, free on board, in May to US$39 per tonne. This reduces anticipated company tax receipts.

Health Budget Issues.

Myefo: bulk-billing rules 'Tony Abbott's GP co-payment in disguise', says AMA

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler says former prime minister’s ‘dead, buried and cremated’ measures ‘reach out beyond the grave’
The AMA president, Brian Owler, says the health minister, Sussan Ley, did not consult the AMA and pathology and diagnostic experts. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP
Tony Abbott’s GP co-payment is “reaching out beyond the grave” in the guise of new bulk-billing measures announced in Tuesday’s economic update, the Australian Medical Association has warned.
The government’s midyear economic and fiscal outlook (Myefo), released on Tuesday, included reducing the rebate health professionals get from the government for bulk billing diagnostic imaging and pathology services from 15% to 10% of the Medicare benefits schedule fee.

MYEFO health cuts pummel Primary Health Care and Sonic Healthcare

Date December 15, 2015 - 7:44PM

Tim Binsted


Hefty cuts to government funding of blood tests and x-rays sparked a sell-off in healthcare stocks and drew sharp criticism from the doctors' lobby.
On Tuesday the federal government's Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) identified $650.4 million of savings over the next four years, from reducing or removing bulk-billing incentive payments for certain pathology and imaging tests.
The incentives were introduced in 2009 when Nicola Roxon was health minister, to offset cuts in fees paid to providers and to maintain bulk billing rates for patients.

Aged care facilities overmedicating patients in order to extract more government subsidies

December 16, 2015 1:00am
Renee Viellaris Federal PoliticsThe Courier-Mail
AGED care providers are dosing residents with unnecessary medications and procedures to extract more taxpayer subsidies.
The swindle identified by the Federal Government raised questions about the potential side-effects of the cash grab and whether some providers gave seniors extra pain medication to subdue them.
The Government said the practice might have cost $150 million last year.
Aged Care Minister Sussan Ley will today announce aged care providers will, for the first time, be slapped with fines of more than $10,000 if they made repeated false claims about residents’ fragility.

MYEFO Medicare health cuts hit patients needing blood tests and diagnostic imaging

  • Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter
  • News Corp Australia Network
  • December 15, 2015 9:00PM
PATIENTS will have to pay up to $20 for a blood test after the government slashed $332 million in Medicare payments, the pathology industry claims.
They will also have to drive further to find a blood collection centre and wait longer for their test results, Pathology Australia says.
The cost of X-rays and other scans for some people could also rise after the government cut more than $300 million in bulk billing incentives provided to the radiology industry.
The changes are part of $1.3 billion in new cuts to health outlined in yesterday’s mid year economic statement.

Doctors warn patients to pay up to $62 more for diagnostic and pathology tests

Date December 16, 2015 - 1:27PM

Marika Dobbin

Doctors are concerned that medical imaging like CT scans may be unaffordable for the most vulnerable people.
Australian medical patients will be out of pocket by up to $62 more for a range of diagnostic and pathology tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs, doctors say.
The Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association says the most ill people will be hit the hardest by the Turnbull government's $650 million cut to healthcare.
Association president Dr Christian Wriedt labelled the decision a government "cash grab" that would make medical imaging like CT scans unaffordable for vulnerable people.

Cuts of nearly $500 million to the aged care sector

Australia December 16 2015
The aged care sector has been targeted for savings after a budget update that forecasted bigger deficits than expected.
Yesterday the Federal Government announced that $472.4 million will be cut from the aged care sector over the next four years as part of its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO).
The savings will be achieved through the revisions of ACFI scoring, intended to ‘better align funding with residential care needs’. ACFI is the Aged Care Funding Instrument, which is a classification instrument used to pay subsidies to residential aged care services. As such therefore, the savings will likley come from cutting funding and subsidies to aged care providers.

Sussan Ley concedes some patients will pay more with new bulk-billing rules

Health minister says private pathology companies should be able to absorb new costs but ‘it’s a matter of managing the business’
Private pathology companies are competitive enough to absorb the costs of reduced bulk-billing incentives, but some patients will still be hit with increased charges, the federal health minister, Sussan Ley, has conceded.
The federal government announced in its budget update on Tuesday that it would reduce bulk-billing incentives for pathology services and diagnostic imaging.

A healthy budget shouldn't mean an unhealthy nation

Improving the health system and balancing the budget can go hand-in-hand, but it's debatable whether the measures announced by the Government this week satisfy both those needs, writes Mike Steketee.
Rather than having the kids in the back of the car, also known as the long-suffering public, asking "are we there yet", Treasurer Scott Morrison would have done better this week to ask "are we getting serious yet" when it comes to fixing the budget.
It is not that Australia faces a budget emergency, as Tony Abbott used to claim before he came into government and then presided over a further deterioration. But at some stage we will have to make a concerted effort to make the budget fit into the reality of a nation living with reduced means.

Turnbull government to spend $1 billion on hepatitis C 'miracle cures' for all

Date December 20, 2015 - 12:15AM

Adam Gartrell

National Political Correspondent

Health Minister Sussan Ley has announced $1 billion in funding to make "miracle" hepatitis C drugs available to all. Photo: Andrew Meares
The Turnbull government will spend more than $1 billion to make breakthrough hepatitis C cures available to all as part of an ambitious new plan to eradicate the deadly disease within a generation.
Health Minister Sussan Ley will announce the major new Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme listing on Sunday, in a move that will give Australia's 230,000 hepatitis C sufferers affordable access to the drugs.
The drugs can currently cost patients up to $100,000. Under the subsidy, they will be available for the normal PBS co-payment of $37.70 for general patients and $6.10 for concessional patients.

Health Insurance Issues.

Ley downplays insurance rebate changes

December 13, 2015, 2:04 pm
Health Minister Sussan Ley has played down a report the federal government will scrap the private health insurance rebate.
A spokesman for the minister said it was one of several options being considered by the government as part of potential changes in the federation reform review.

Private health insurance rebate likely to stay as system reformed

  • The Australian
  • December 14, 2015 12:00AM

Sarah-Jane Tasker

The private health insurance rebate is tipped to remain in some form in the federal government’s shake-up of the sector as industry heads warn its removal will destabilise the public and private ­systems.
The removal of the rebate was covered in leaked Council of Australian Governments papers, according to a News Corp report yesterday, which said rebates would instead be paid ­directly to hospitals regardless of whether people opted to be treated as ­public or private patients.
The Australian understands that while the scrapping of the rebate was on the table, it was not Health Minister Sussan Ley’s preference and she was more focused on exploring a new funding model where the commonwealth, states and territories jointly fund individual care packages for people with, or at risk of developing, chronic or complex conditions. The 30 per cent private health insurance rebate was introduced in 1999, with costs rising from $1.4 billion in 1999-2000 to over $6bn last year.

Pharmacy Issues.

3:45pm December 14, 2015

Pharmacists warn against cheaper meds

The powerful pharmacists lobby warns pensioners they won't see any benefit if they buy discounted medicines.
The Pharmacy Guild fired the warning shot on Monday, after Chemist Warehouse announced it would discount prescription medicines by $1 from January 1.
Pharmacists have been required to charge set fees for prescription drugs - $6.10 for concession patients and $37.70 for general patients, although this will rise to $6.20 and $38.30 next year.
But in 2016 they'll have the option of providing a $1 discount, under the federal government's new $19 billion five-year agreement with pharmacists to dispense medicines listed on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
Health is also clearly still under review as far as its budget is concerned with still a few reviews underway and some changes in key strategic directions. Lots to keep up with here! Enjoy.

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