Thursday, March 10, 2016

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

March 10 Edition
The macroeconomic stresses seem to have eased a little more with markets rising around the world.
With that said there a still some who have a few clues who are pretty worried.
Here is a link to one such from the legendary Bill Gross.
March 2, 2016

Sunshine, Lollipops and…

Our Sun – a rather tiny star in the galaxial scheme of things – seems inexhaustible. But 5 billion years from now, it will swallow, instead of nurture the Earth as it burns itself out – first contracting, then expanding like a flaming candle turned firecracker. Not to worry though. We won’t be around. It’s not that we are beyond worrying; it’s that our lives are much shorter and we needn’t think much about it. In the nearer term, there is global warming/climate change, and other such down to Earth problems as paying the bills and getting kids into the right colleges. Still – there are presumably inexhaustible things that deserve our attention in the here and now. One of them is finance-based capitalism and our assumption that the risk/ reward historically inherent in it will be sufficient to drive economic growth forward. Unlike the Sun, whose fate and lifespan can be scientifically determined, there is little evidence that anything could ever change what has been until now a flawed, yet the best economic system conceivable. Capitalistic initiative married to an ever expanding supply of available credit has facilitated economic prosperity much like the Sun has been the supply center for energy/ food and life’s sustenance. But now with quantitative easing and negative interest rates, the concept of nurturing credit seems to have morphed into something destructive as opposed to growth enhancing. Our global, credit based economic system appears to be in the process of devolving from a production oriented model to one which recycles finance for the benefit of financiers. Making money on money seems to be the system’s flickering objective. Our global financed-based economy is becoming increasingly dormant, not because people don’t want to work or technology isn’t producing better things, but because finance itself is burning out like our future Sun.
Also, in Australia, we are now see a set of continuing bun-fights on pathology funding, health insurance costs as well as negative gearing and superannuation. Will be fun to watch. Mr Trunbull and Mr Morrison seem to have disappointed with the lack of a clear plan.
Two weeks ago we heard there would be a before the Budget announcement of  tax proposals so that will happen soon. Stay tuned!
Here is a summary of interesting things up until the end of last week:

General Budget Issues.

  • Feb 28 2016 at 5:18 PM

PM needs to define his purpose

by The Australian Financial Review
What is the point of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, we asked three weeks ago in the wake of his dumping of a substantial tax reform package that would deliver an economic growth dividend. That question has become the central theme of national politics. The government has lost purpose because it has shied away from the critique Mr Turnbull made of Tony Abbott in September 2015: that the then prime minister had not provided the economic leadership needed to revive growth and secure national prosperity. As we foreshadowed, the government instead has been dragged into debate about piecemeal tax changes and forced to fight – including with itself – on Labor's preferred territory.
It started late in 2015, when Treasurer Scott Morrison flew up the white flag on fiscal repair by allowing any projected budget surplus to drift into the 2020s. Instead of fiscal fortitude, Mr Morrison sought an economic growth dividend from incentive-sharpening income tax cuts, financed by an increase in the goods and services tax. But Mr Turnbull over-ruled this option before Australians returned to work from their summer break. Among the casualties are hopes of a new federalist bargain on federal-state responsibilities that would tackle cost-shifting and fiscal featherbedding in areas such as health. And, then, last week's defence white paper committed the government to a lot more extra spending – as much as it is justified by security considerations – that would push the early 2020s budget back into the red.

Spending cuts must fund tax relief, Scott Morrison tells MPs

Amid heightened talk of an early election, the Treasurer has warned Coalition MPs that old approaches to spending restraint had not gone far enough, forcing the need for greater cuts in upcoming budgets to help fund the tax relief for ordinary workers.
Malcolm Turnbull yesterday insisted he expected the election to be held “in the normal way” in August, September or October, but Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said it would be “very difficult” to avoid calling a double dissolution election
The last date for a double dissolution election this year is July 16, setting a deadline for Mr Turnbull if he wants to clear out the upper house after more than two years of obstruction of the ­Coalition’s agenda.

Abbott’s warning is timely but Turnbull must deliver

  • The Australian
  • March 1, 2016 12:00AM
Tony Abbott’s detailed defence of his time in office undoubtedly was inconvenient for Malcolm Turnbull. It included elements of score-settling and legacy protection, but the former prime minister also accurately set out the task required of the incumbent. Mr Turnbull is committed to some form of taxation, federation and industrial relations reform to take to an election this year and his Treasurer, Scott Morrison, must deliver a budget in May. Mr Abbott is clearly still smarting from the criticism used by his usurper in September, that his government lacked an economic narrative. So, retrospectively, he has mapped out a first principles guide to reform. “The first law of governing is that you can’t spend what you can’t raise through taxes and borrowings,” he wrote in the Quadrant article published in The Weekend Australian, “and the second law is that today’s borrowings have to be paid for — with interest — by tomorrow’s taxes.”
  • Updated Mar 2 2016 at 7:31 AM

Government cools on negative gearing as 'hypocritical' Abbott turns up heat

Plans by the Turnbull government to limit negative gearing by high-end investors are hanging by a thread after Tony Abbott joined a backbench revolt and dared Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison to fund tax cuts through spending restraint, not tax increases.
But Mr Abbott's call, made to the weekly meeting of Coalition MPs, was slammed as "downright hypocritical" by senior members of the government who pointed out that Mr Abbott, as prime minister, introduced more than $20 billion in tax increases to help fund his tax cuts, including the abolition of the carbon tax.
Mr Abbott's tax increases included the reindexation of petrol excise, the so-called income tax deficit levy on high-income earners, and the backpackers tax. 
  • Mar 2 2016 at 11:43 AM
  • Updated Mar 2 2016 at 8:52 PM

GDP rises 0.6pc in September quarter, up 3pc for the year

 A sustained burst of spending, led by households in the powerhouse states of NSW and Victoria, helped the economy shrug off another quarter of falling national income and commodity price falls, triggering rallies in the Australian dollar and the stock market.
December quarter National Accounts showed the economy grew 0.6 per cent from the September quarter and 3 per cent from a year earlier, a pace that is only just above the level Treasury regards as the economy's "trend" or potential growth rate, which is consistent with strong jobs growth.
The figures buttress a recent flurry of buoyant retailing company results and help explain the underlying strength of the labour market in late 2015, which has seen the jobless rate hover well below the 6.5 per cent forecast in last year's budget.

Health Budget Issues.

Pathology sector launches campaign against bulk-billing cuts

Date February 28, 2016 - 6:00PM

Jane Lee

Pathologists will ask millions of patients to sign a petition against bulk-billing incentive cuts in a national campaign against the Turnbull government in the lead-up to the next election.
Doctors at 5500 private collection centres will on Monday begin approaching their patients to sign a petition asking the Senate to block the cuts, due to come into effect from July 1 if passed.
The cuts could "reduce access to quality health care", which may mean patients go without vital tests if they could not afford them, travel further to hand in samples and wait longer for results, the petition says.

True blood: cutting through confusion about pathology cuts

March 1, 2016 11.26am AEDT
Bruce Baer Arnold
Assistant Professor, School of Law, University of Canberra
The pathology sector in Australia is no longer a cottage industry. It is dominated by a handful of billion-dollar enterprises that analyse blood, tissue and other samples. These tests enable timely diagnosis of a range of illnesses and allow clinicians to optimise treatment by ensuring patients get the right mix of medications for specific conditions.
The sector uses advanced technology, involving high-cost specialist equipment rather than individual pathologists equipped with a microscope. It’s big business. The overall Sonic group, which includes one of the two leading services, last year reported annual revenue of more than A$4 billion.

Primary Health Care in billing shake-up

  • The Australian
  • March 1, 2016 2:44PM

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Primary Health Care has created a private billing division to develop a new model for its medical centres, in a bid to curb the impact of cuts to federal government subsidies.
The company (PRY) announced today that Henry Bateman, the son of the late founder of Primary Ed Bateman, would step down from the role of general manager Medical Centres to pursue other opportunities.
Primary said that following Mr Bateman’s departure it had decided to separate bulk billing and private billing in its Medical Centres structure.

Doctors share the blame for a sick budget

Date March 1, 2016 - 9:00PM

Ross Gittins

The Sydney Morning Herald's Economics Editor

Some of my best friends are doctors. These days, I even have in-laws who are doctors. I've just become a grandad and my tiny grandson stands a fair chance of ending up as a doctor, too.
But I'm still a journo, and have to do my job. So let me let me adapt something Kerry Packer said about a youthful Malcolm Turnbull: never get between a doctor and bag of money.
If you wonder why it will be so long before we get the federal budget back into surplus, doctors are part of the reason.

Malcolm Turnbull to states: fix health budget yourselves

  • The Australian
  • March 4, 2016 12:00AM

David Crowe

Rebecca Puddy

Malcolm Turnbull is holding out against state pleas for an emergency $7 billion fix for public hospitals ahead of a showdown on health policy within weeks, telling the premiers to develop their own ­solution before expecting federal aid.
The Prime Minister is facing collective pressure from the states and territories to top up their funds for health and education through to 2020, reversing decisions in the May 2014 federal budget that scaled back the growth in federal funding by $80bn across a decade.
His message is that the states and territories must start to fix their funding gaps before expecting the commonwealth to solve the problem, raising the idea of state spending cuts or tax rises.

Health Insurance Issues.

Pain hits the family pocket

March 1, 2016 9:00pm
Herald Sun
FAMILIES will be sickened by the latest health fund premium increases that will see more than $200 a year added to the cost of their cover from next month.
As reported in today’s Herald Sun, this increase represents a 5.5 per cent rise on average and is the ninth successive rise of more than 5 per cent.
Families hoping for tax relief in the tax reforms promised by the Turnbull government will question why the government is not able to impose greater control over the cost of health insurance.
The total increase since 2002 is a massive 142 per cent, compared with inflation of less than 50 per cent across the economy in that time.

Health fund premiums will rise by another 5.59 per cent on average from next month

March 2, 2016 12:00am
John Rolfe, Cost of Living Editor News Corp Australia Network
HEALTH fund premiums will rise by another 5.59 per cent on average from next month, adding more than $200 a year to the already-steep cost of family cover and delivering insurers an extra $1 billion of revenue.
The increase, which will be confirmed today by Health Minister Sussan Ley, is the ninth in a row of five per cent-plus increases.
Steep successive rises dating back as far as 2002 mean a policy that cost $2000 then will now set a household back $4840 — an increase of 142 per cent, compared to economy-wide inflation of less than 50 per cent.

Private health insurance premiums to rise by 5.6 per cent in April

Date March 2, 2016 - 9:45AM

Michael Koziol


Private health insurance premiums will rise by an average of 5.59 per cent this year, an outcome Health Minister Sussan Ley is chalking up as a win for consumers.
In January, Ms Ley required insurers to resubmit their applications for premium increases, citing her concern that the process did not allow the government to fully scrutinise an insurer's financial position.
Twenty Australian funds subsequently lowered their demands, Ms Ley said. The result is the smallest price hike in four years, and compares to a long-term average of 6.1 per cent a year.

Private health insurers push up premium prices from April 1

  • The Australian
  • March 2, 2016 12:00AM
Private health insurance premiums will rise more than 5 per cent on April 1 despite members already dealing with higher ­out-of-pocket fees and other medical expenses.
Insurers have convinced Health Minister Sussan Ley that the industry needs to ­raise premiums again to respond to significant cost pressures. Although the rates vary, the average increase is 5.59 per cent, with funds agreeing to the lowest price rise in four years after Ms Ley gave a commitment to reform.
Premium rises have averaged 6.1 per cent since 2002, but health funds made it clear to the minister that major reforms, such as overhauling the prostheses list, would help them address affordability issues that have forced members to cut back their level of cover.

Health insurance premium lift wins analyst tick

  • The Australian
  • March 2, 2016 10:47AM

Sarah-Jane Tasker

The federal government is not hitting insurer’s profitability too hard to improve affordability for private health insurance given the more than five per cent premium increase agreed, according to analysts.
Health Minister Sussan Ley has agreed to an average premium increase, to take effect from April 1, of 5.59 per cent, which is the lowest increase in four years.
Premium rises have averaged 6.1 per cent since 2002 but this year Ms Ley forced health funds to resubmit increase applications, warning they had to be lower. She also highlighted that the level of capital companies held should be taken into consideration.

Consumer groups urge action after private health insurance premiums rise by 5.6 per cent

March 2 2016 - 7:47PM
·         Alexandra Back, Michael Koziol
Consumer advocacy groups have urged action by both government and policy-holders as private health insurance premiums are set to rise by an average 5.6 per cent.
Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the rise on Wednesday, saying it was the smallest price hike in four years, and called it a win for consumers.
Under federal legislation, private health insurers must apply to the minister for approval of premium changes. The increases usually apply from April 1. The smallest increase in recent years was 5.06 per cent in 2012.
In January, Ms Ley requested insurers resubmit their applications for premium increases, citing her concern that the process did not allow the government to fully scrutinise an insurer's financial position.

Government’s tough talk fails to hit private health hikes

  • The Australian
  • March 2, 2016 9:17PM

Sarah-Jane Tasker

The federal government’s tough rhetoric towards private health insurers has not translated to significant cuts to annual premium increases, with analysts surprised the industry was not hit harder.
Health Minister Sussan Ley has agreed to an average premium increase of 5.59 per cent to take effect from next month. Premium rises have averaged 6.1 per cent since 2002 but this year Ms Ley forced health funds to resubmit their increase applications, warning they had to be lower. She also highlighted that the level of capital companies held should be taken into consideration.

We’ll use our $6bn stake as leverage, Ley warns insurers

  • The Australian
  • March 3, 2016 12:00AM

Sean Parnell

The $6 billion spent subsidising private health insurance is not ­delivering value for money and will be used by the federal government to leverage reforms, Health Minister Sussan Ley said yesterday.
As reported in The Australian, the government has approved April 1 premium increases averaging 5.59 per cent, under a process the minister said required her to consider whether insurers needed it, rather than whether members could afford it. Ms Ley had been expected to announce industry ­reforms at the same time as she announced premium­ increases.
But instead she reiterated her belief that the pricing of prostheses and other devices need­ed to be more competitive, and members deserved more certainty and transparency with policies.

Private health cover: governments only care about rising costs when they're paying, not you

With another hike in premiums, consumers have to weigh up whether they are better off paying money to an insurer, or saving for a rainy day
We have a health spending crisis, or so we’re told. So much so that the federal government has dedicated itself to reigning in the “rapid and unsustainable” rate of spending growth.
Of course, it’s only a crisis when it comes to government funding. But what about the spiralling costs for consumers?
When it comes to what pollies expect Australians to shell out in out-of-pocket expenses or private health insurance premium rises, suddenly it appears there is no such crisis at all.

Editorial: Private health insurance premiums bleeding Aussies dry

March 6, 2016 1:00am
The Sunday Mail (Qld)
SOARING private health premiums are becoming a joke in Australia.
Unfortunately, we’re quickly heading down the path of the US medical system, universally panned as the costliest and most cumbersome in the world. And Australians are voting with their wallets. The exodus of average Australians fleeing private health insurance is extraordinary.
Middle-class Aussies have had enough.
The result of this exodus is bad news for the Federal Government because it will place an even greater strain on the public system. The problem is healthcare costs are climbing at unsustainable rates. As the population lives longer, it is a massive challenge for politicians.
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 with all the various pre-budget kites still being flown! Enjoy.

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