Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Macro View – Health, Financial And Political News Relevant To E-Health And The Health Sector In General.

February 22, 2018 Edition.
In Trump world the big news is that the Special Prosecutor has indited 13 Russians with systematic interference with the US Election. Heaven knows where this goes from here but I suspect it won't end well for many people!
In OZ the Barnaby saga has reached escape velocity and who knows what will happen when it returns to Earth, as surely it must! Maybe by the time you read this we will know more.
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Here are a few other things I have noticed.
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Major Issues.

  • Feb 11 2018 at 11:24 AM

Volatility bets should not be available to retail investors

How much protection do people deserve when they venture into markets? After the longest period on record without a stock market sell-off — or "correction" — capital markets reminded last week that setting prices is painful.
It involves the interaction of greed and fear, with markets rising steadily, falling more suddenly, and overshooting in both directions as they go. It is a wasteful and expensive process, but it works. Paraphrasing Winston Churchill on democracy, a free capital market is the worst way to allocate capital — apart from all the others ever tried.
All that said, we should not be too relaxed about this equity market sell-off. It is unusual for markets to drop this quickly and violently from an all-time high. This 10 per cent fall took only nine trading days; London's Longview Economics reports that the S&P has never fallen so far so fast from a record high.
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So thanks, Captain Obvious. But what if the market is wrong?

Scott Phillips
Published: February 11 2018 - 9:07AM
The past week has been a tough one for many investors. The sudden, if inevitable, return of volatility woke many from their bullish slumber, as nervous traders tried to work out what to do - and whipsawing share prices were the result.
The cause, if you’ve been asleep for a week, was some stronger than expected employment, wages and inflation numbers in the United States, which were released last Friday night, our time.
All of a sudden, it seems, many in the market were confronted with what the rest of us had known was always obvious - that continued economic strength in the US would mean higher official interest rates (courtesy of the US Federal Reserve).
Yes, thanks, Captain Obvious.
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The price of your pizza, pad Thai or butter chicken depends on your postcode

Nigel Gladstone
Published: February 12 2018 - 2:49AM
Residents of the north shore and northern beaches of Sydney are paying up to twice as much for home delivered food as people in the south and west.
The highest prices, on average, for popular dishes such as pad Thai, a large Margherita pizza and Indian butter chicken curry were all found north of the bridge, a Herald analysis of Menulog data covering more than 3000 NSW restaurants found.
Generally, a Sydney restaurant will deliver to 12 or more suburbs, so the data reflects what is available for home delivery in a postcode - not what is delivered from a suburb. 
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With $30b in wealth, why is the Catholic Church struggling to pay for justice?

Ben Schneiders, Royce Millar, Chris Vedelago
Published: February 11 2018 - 7:00PM
After a lifetime contributing to the Catholic Church, Neil Ormerod could give no more.
Following a Sunday mass in 2014, the Australian Catholic University theology professor told his parish priest he no longer trusted the church to use its resources in a way Jesus Christ would approve.
The trigger for his rebellion was the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2014 - in particular, Cardinal George Pell’s testimony about the church’s brutal legal assault on John Ellis, a former altar boy abused by a priest in the 1970s.
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Australian power prices worse than banana republics

Cole Latimer
Published: February 11 2018 - 8:06PM
Australia has power prices worse than a third world country, a global renewable energy guru says.
"For a country that has a very high standard of living, stable economic situation and tremendous opportunities, it makes no sense at all for the price of power to be more than a banana republic," the Australian head of global renewable firm SunEnergy1, and part-time racecar driver, Kenny Habul said.
Speaking at the Bond Business Leaders Forum on the Gold Coast, Mr Habul said Australia needs to dramatically change its energy landscape in order to escape the energy price crisis, adding that there is a disconnect between Australian standards of living and electricity costs.
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Economists do little to promote bank competition

Ross Gittins
Published: February 12 2018 - 12:15AM
The royal commission into banking, whose public hearings start on Monday, won't get a lot of help from the Productivity Commission's report on competition within the sector. It's very limp-wristed.
The report's inability to deny the obvious - that competition in banking is weak, that the big four banks have considerable pricing power, abuse the trust of their customers and are excessively profitable – won it an enthusiastic reception from the media.
Trouble is, its distorted explanation of why competitive pressure is so weak and its unconvincing suggestions for fixing the problem. It offered one good (but oversold) proposal, one fatuous proposal (to abolish the four pillars policy because other laws made it "redundant") and a lot of fiddling round the edges.
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The three horsemen: Bonds, ETFs and the Vix

  • The Australian
  • 6:30AM February 12, 2018

Alan Kohler

Last week’s market sell-off prompts some thoughts about bonds, ETFs and the Vix.
Bonds
It seems fairly clear (but not certain, since nothing is certain) that bonds have entered a generational bear market.
Over 200 years or more, bonds have moved in long waves of 20-50 years. The greatest bond bear market in history was 1946-1980, as a result of the post-war boom and 1970s inflation, and the greatest bull market was from that peak in yields to July 2016 after Fed chairman Paul Volcker crushed inflation and the 2008 Great Recession killed it.
In 1980, a 10-year US bond was priced to yield 15 per cent, a rate only approached once before, in the panic of 1837. By mid 2016 the world’s most important interest rate had fallen to a low of 1.36 per cent.
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  • Updated Feb 12 2018 at 2:45 PM

Industry should have retirement products ready within 12 months

Superannuation funds should develop retirement strategies for their ageing members now rather than wait for the Coalition government to formulate its policy on comprehensive retirement income products, argues respected wealth industry veteran Jeremy Duffield.
Mr Duffield, the founder of Vanguard Australia, argued that the super industry had been too slow to create appropriate products and services for members in retirement to help ensure they did not run out of money or live too frugally.
Mr Duffield argued that funds would not need to come up with a single retirement product but could offer a range of products to meet the objectives of different member cohorts.
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Banking inquiry will counter 'moral hazard' inherent in Australian banks

Jessica Irvine
Published: February 12 2018 - 12:15AM
On level six of an unassuming office block at the "Paris-end" of Melbourne's CBD, the Turnbull government's much anticipated – but reluctantly embraced - banking royal commission kicked off today.
Former High Court justice Kenneth Hayne, has, as Commissioner, until September 30 to deliver his interim report, and until February 1 next year to deliver his final report and recommendations.
The race is on.
Already, unions say they have received more than 500 complaints of misconduct by the institutions under scrutiny, which include not only banks, but life insurers, superannuation companies, mortgage brokers and pay-day lenders.
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Ninety per cent of incarcerated youths have a brain disorder: study

Esther Han
Published: February 13 2018 - 10:16PM
Australian researchers say a shocking 90 per cent of young people in detention have at least one severe brain disorder and they hope their findings will act as a "catalyst for change" in the justice system.
The Telethon Kids Institute study of about 100 young people aged 10 to 17 incarcerated at Western Australia’s only youth detention facility, Banksia Hill Detention Centre, found 89 per cent had at least one area of severe neurodevelopmental impairment, such as problems with memory, cognition, motor skills or attention.
What they do is socially unacceptable but it’s arisen from a brain that isn’t working properly, and that underlying, innate difference of brain function has not been previously recognised nor understood,” Dr Raewyn Mutch, a paediatrician and one of the researchers, said.
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The three principles of reform done right

Chris Bowen
Published: February 13 2018 - 7:54PM
It would be understandable to be sceptical about the prospects for serious economic reform in Australia. A decade of a revolving-door prime ministership and stop-start policy arguments has led many people to conclude the reform machine is broken and the political class has let us down. Fair enough, but I am much more optimistic about the prospects of reform, if it is done right.
And reform is essential. Our 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth didn’t happen by accident and changes will be necessary to keep them going. Our budget won’t return to balance without tough decisions, and social mobility and economic equality won’t magically improve just by wishing it so.
So what is reform “done right”? What lessons are there from reforms that have succeeded and failed in recent years? I think there are three principles to seeing good reform through and they are the principles that have underpinned federal Labor’s approach to policy change since 2013.
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A modest proposal for better behaved banks

Peter Martin
Published: February 14 2018 - 6:03PM
Suddenly, banks are behaving nicely. They are no longer charging for the use of teller machines, the chief executive of the National Australia Bank took a day out of his $6.6 million a year job to sell copies of The Big Issue, and from this week it’ll be really, really easy to transfer funds. It’ll take seconds rather than days, and you won’t need to look up a BSB. You’ll be able to use a phone number or email address instead.
Could it get any better? Absolutely, and the route is spelt out in one of the submissions to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into competition in the financial system, which is running in parallel with the banking industry royal commission.
The Productivity Commission has found that, notwithstanding the banks’ belated success in bringing service into the 21st century, they and their competitors aren’t particularly competitive. There’s half as many of them as there used to be in 1999. Instead of charging all their customers the best possible rate as competitive firms would, they charge their existing mortgage holders $66 to $87 a month more than new ones, in what amounts to a penalty for loyalty.
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Superannuation is where the gender pay gap really stings

Nick Dyrenfurth
Published: February 14 2018 - 8:20PM
More than 95 per cent of workers – 12 million Australians – hold superannuation accounts, double that of 20 years ago. We have built the fourth largest pool of savings globally in just 25 years.
Yet Australia’s population size and age profile pose significant challenges to our system. We are getting older and are having fewer children. If not addressed by policy makers, an ageing population may affect both economic growth and the viability of our retirement income system. We need as many taxpayers as possible to fund our aged pensions, or, preferably, maximise the super accounts of workers.
It is incumbent upon government to deal with other challenges to our retirement system. Non-payment of superannuation is rampant. Workers have been fleeced of $17 billion since 2009 - an average $2.81 billion every year between 2009 and 2015. Some businesses are reducing entitlements for workers who choose to make voluntary contributions through salary sacrificing. Government must prosecute a zero-tolerance approach towards employers who don’t pay super.
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CBA bans customers from using credit cards to buy bitcoin

Clancy Yeates
Published: February 14 2018 - 3:53PM
The Commonwealth Bank has banned its customers from buying bitcoin on credit cards after the recent plunge in the cryptocurrency's value, saying such purchases are no longer "appropriate."
The country's largest bank on Wednesday started sending text messages alerting affected customers to the ban, which follows similar action by large banks overseas in the wake of a more than 50 per cent plunge in bitcoin's value from last year's peaks.
The crackdown comes amid concern among banks overseas that further sharp falls in the price of bitcoin could leave some customers with large debts, creating extra risk for banks.
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APRA issues another warning on risky investor loans

Clancy Yeates
Published: February 14 2018 - 5:29PM
Banks would be forced to set aside more capital against mortgages to property investors and home buyers who are are only paying interest, under a new plan to counter risks in the home loan market.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority on Wednesday highlighted the risks to financial stability from the high level of property investor debt, in a paper setting out plans to make banks more resilient to potential housing shocks.
The latest warning, which follows last year's moves to cap new interest-only loans, follows a long-term rise in the popularity of property investment, amid strong house price growth and low interest rates.
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Plan to increase defence exports at odds with our peacekeeping role

Zac Rayson
Published: February 14 2018 - 3:35PM
The latest plank in the government's "jobs and growth" strategy - to turn Australia into one of the world's 10 biggest defence exporters in the next decade - takes the country down a path that is fundamentally at odds with our nation's values.
We have long pictured ourselves as a leader in our region, maintaining peace and a rules-based international order. From myriad projects supporting democracy, to our peacekeeping missions in the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and further afield, promoting peace and stability is a mission at the core of our Australian identity.
But the $3.8 billion defence export strategy announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the end of January puts our role as a peacekeeping nation at risk.
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Ominous warning for Sydney in Cape Town water crisis

Eamon Waterford
Published: February 15 2018 - 12:03AM
Within months, a city sitting on the same line of latitude as Sydney could become the first major metropolis in modern history to run out of water.
When Cape Town hits its projected "Day Zero", millions of taps will suddenly run dry. Schools, hospitals and other institutions will retain access to some water but households will be cut off completely.
Obviously Sydney enjoys a range of advantages over Cape Town.
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Government establishes ‘one-stop shop’ for small business financial services complaints

Caleb Triscari / Thursday, February 15, 2018

Small businesses will soon have access to a new financial complaints authority, with the federal Parliament this week successfully passing legislation to establish the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).
The Treasury Laws Amendment (Putting Consumers First – Establishment of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority) Bill, passed the Senate on Wednesday.
The AFCA will be an amalgamation of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) and will hear complaints around products and services offered by financial firms, such as bank loans, insurance and superannuation.
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Putting tax cuts before budget is 'problematic'

  • 11:03 AM 18/2/2018
Lowe has jumped into the debate on corporate tax cuts in a big way.
He says Donald Trump's tax cuts are 'very problematic' because they blow out the budget deficit and Australia should not go the same way.
He says that over the next six years US budget deficits will average 5 percent of GDP even though unemployment is low and the economy is strong.
"That's very problematic and if we were to go down the direction of having lower corporate tax rates it is really important that it does not come at the expense of higher budget deficits."
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The Aussie wasn’t meant to be this way

Michael Pascoe
Published: February 15 2018 - 6:43PM
It wasn’t meant to be like this. Rising US interest rates while ours remained steady were supposed to result in a weaker Australian dollar against a stronger greenback, supporting our exporters and helping import a little inflation.
Instead, we have a stubbornly strong Aussie and a weaker greenback even as the outlook for American rate increases is faster and further.
Specifically, indications of higher American inflation (and therefore higher interest rates) were supposed to weaken the Aussie. Instead, it was the greenback that went down overnight.
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RBA more relaxed on housing, next rate move some way off

Matt Wade
Published: February 16 2018 - 10:01AM
The Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, says the next move in interest rates is likely to be up rather than down, although that change is still some way off.
The timing of any rate hike will depend on further reductions in the unemployment rate and how quickly the inflation rate climbs from its current low levels, Dr Lowe told a parliamentary committee in Sydney on Friday.
In Australia, the pick-up in inflation was expected to be “only gradual”.
Dr Lowe did not see a “strong case for a near-term adjustment in monetary policy” but eventually the need to keep interest rates at the current historic low of 1.5 per cent would dissipate.
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When the next financial crisis hits, there will be little the RBA can do about it

John Hewson
Published: February 15 2018 - 2:58PM
What if governments and policy authorities are unable to handle the next global financial crisis? Indeed, what if their declared strategy of  “normalising” interest rates actually triggers the next GFC and leaves them powerless to respond?
Rather than deal with its structural causes, the response of authorities to the last crisis 10 years ago was to flood the world with liquidity – key central banks launched QE (quantitative easing) and aggressive bond-buying programs which pushed interest rates down to near zero, even negative, levels, and then held them there, supported by all sorts of budgetary injections to avoid a recession or stimulate growth and/or to bail out certain financial institutions and companies. All this has now been magnified by massive (and unparalleled) leverage, with grossly overvalued stock and bond markets.
Of course, it should also be recognised that the GFC was itself essentially created by excess liquidity; Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan held US rates too low, for too long, causing a global quest for yield, resulting in a mountain of debt that was built on the securitisation and financial engineering of high risk sub-prime housing loans and other securities.
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Banking royal commission: be thankful our banks were better than the rest of the West's

Crispin Hull
Published: February 17 2018 - 12:15AM
Now that the banking royal commission is under way, it's a good time to reflect on the Australian financial system over the past decade and be grateful that we're kicking the banks while they're up, not down. Far better to have obscenely profitable banks than grotesquely bankrupt ones.
The popular mythology is that Australia was saved from the great recession of 2008 by prime minister Kevin Rudd and treasurer Wayne Swan following Treasury advice to increase public spending and to get cash into people's hands.
But that's only part of the story. Remember, the US government did a similar thing, pushing $700 billion into the economy, but it didn't save the US from recession. Similarly with Britain.
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Royal commission chief Kenneth Hayne should break up banks

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 17, 2018
  • Alan Kohler
The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry got off to an innovative start in December with commissioner Kenneth Hayne asking his class to set out their misconduct in 50 pages or less, quick smart.
Right then, what have you been up to? Come on you lot, I haven’t got all year. Out with it!” (Arms folded, foot tapping.)
All responded with their 50 pages, on time, but some of the essays were not up to scratch.
You there, what do you call this?” he said this week. “I asked you to specify the nature, extent and effect of your misconduct, but you just listed the nasty things you did, you disgusting bank. Not good enough!”
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National Budget Issues.

Wages growth is worse than the headlines claim

Michael Pascoe
Published: February 11 2018 - 8:58AM
For once the headlines have been underplaying bad news. That stubbornly weak wage price index (WPI)? The reality is worse.
The Reserve Bank's quarterly statement on monetary policy, released on Friday, highlights two broader and arguably better wages measures that are tracking lower than the low WPI.
And the RBA, like much of the rest of the world, remains uncertain about when and how the trend might change, clinging somewhat hopefully to the old economic textbook explanations while acknowledging the world has changed.
The bank does have a hot tip on how to get a decent pay rise: change employer.
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Why both Turnbull and Shorten are lying to us about the budget fix

Shane Wright, Economics Editor | The West Australian
Monday, 12 February 2018 10:20AM
The Turnbull Government and Shorten Opposition are lying to you, me and the fence post over their long-term plans to get the Budget back into shape.
The lie is laid out in the Government’s own Budget papers and in the Opposition’s promises.
And it’s time they were both called out.
The starting point is the current Budget deficit which, this year, is likely to be about $20 billion. A similar-sized deficit is expected next year.
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Labor considers company tax reform after budget returns to surplus

Eryk Bagshaw
Published: February 13 2018 - 11:04AM
Labor has been accused of "hypocrisy" by Treasurer Scott Morrison after the opposition indicated a shift in its stance on company tax reform - if it is able to win the election and get the budget back into surplus.
The opposition has spent the past year arguing big business did not deserve a bonus and campaigning strongly against the Turnbull government's proposal to cut tax for all companies to 25 per cent, but Tuesday marked the first time the party said it would consider business tax reform in the latest round of debate.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said his focus remained returning the budget to balance in an effort to place Labor as sensible economic managers, traditionally a Coalition strong suit, as it moves towards an election footing.
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  • Updated Feb 16 2018 at 5:04 PM

RBA head Philip Lowe rings alarm over Trump inflation threat

The first rate hike from the RBA probably will not be before year-end. Louie Douvis
Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe has slammed as "very problematic" the inflationary forces being unleashed by Donald Trump's unprecedented borrowing surge to fund company tax cuts, saying they are landing on a US economy already running at full tilt.
Over three hours of politically sensitive testimony before a House of Representatives committee, Dr Lowe lamented the global shift toward lower company taxes, arguing that if every country joined the race downwards the economic benefits would only be shortlived.

Markets can 'turn against you'

Dr Lowe warned that financial markets "can turn against you" fast if governments overreach in borrowing to fund tax cuts, warning the Coalition government against blowing its planned return to surplus by 2020-21.
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Health Budget Issues.

Day surgery can ‘save millions if spared red tape’

  • The Australian
  • 8:02PM February 11, 2018

Sean Parnell

Day surgery providers argue they are the “future of elective surgery” in Australia and can keep costs down if they are not strangled by government red tape and caught up in disputes between doctors and health insurers.
The Australian earlier revealed at that insurers were spending almost $700 million a year on common hospital procedures and treatments that could be performed as day surgery, in doctors’ rooms or in the hospital at a fraction of the cost.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists recommends intravitreal injections be performed in day surgery unless there are clinical reasons for hospital admission, yet Bupa has calculated the cost to insurers of eye injections in hospital at $44m a year.
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Obesity crisis hits Australia's maternity wards

Aisha Dow
Published: February 12 2018 - 12:05AM
Australia’s obesity crisis is hitting the nation's maternity wards, with a significant proportion of serious pregnancy complications and trauma caused by women’s excess weight, new research has found.
The study published in The Medical Journal of Australia has analysed data from more than 42,500 first-time mothers and found a major increase in the number of pregnant women who are overweight or obese.
Researchers believe that if overweight or obese women had moved down one BMI (body mass index) category, 7.1 per cent of all stillbirths, 3.8 per cent of fetal abnormalities, 6.8 per cent of post-partum haemorrhages and 8.5 per cent of caesarean deliveries of all deliveries could have been avoided.
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Colleges call for an end to health waste

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 13, 2018

Sean Parnell

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Senior specialists at two influential health organisations have called on their peers to help insurers, governments and ­patients keep costs down, amid concerns over unnecessary and wasteful procedures.
The Weekend Australian revealed that insurers were spending almost $700 million a year on common hospital procedures or care that could be performed as day surgery, in doctors’ rooms or in the home at a fraction of the cost. This is contributing to rising insurance premiums.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of ­Ophthalmologists recommends intra­vitreal injections be performed in doctor’s rooms unless there are clinical reasons for ­hospital admission, yet Bupa has ­calculated the cost to insurers of eye injections in hospital at $44m a year.
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Location rules locked in

Certainty and stability” ensured, Guild believes as bill passes both houses  

The National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits – Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2017 has now passed through the Senate,
In the words of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia the bill provides “much needed certainty and stability for Australia’s 5700 community pharmacy small businesses”.
Among other measures, the bill abolishes the sunset clause of the Pharmacy Location Rules, ensuring that the rules do not automatically expire at the end of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement in June 2020.
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More Australians dispose of health insurance because of rising premiums

Esther Han
Published: February 14 2018 - 12:01AM
 More than 12,000 Australians ditched their hospital cover in the three months to last December, new figures show, as a separate survey suggests the key reason was they felt it wasn't worth the money.
Fresh quarterly data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority shows the percentage of Australians with hospital cover fell 0.2 percentage points in the December quarter to 45.6 per cent - the lowest in seven years.
Meanwhile, a new survey by consumer group Choice has found 70 per cent of Australians who don't have health insurance say it's because it's too expensive.
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Private health insurance is a con job

Ross Gittins
Published: February 14 2018 - 12:05AM
You won't believe it, but my birthday was on Tuesday and I got a present from the federal government. I also got a card from my state member, sending his "very best wishes" for reaching such an "important milestone" in my life.
I almost wrote back asking him to alert the Queen to be standing by in 30 years' time. Instead, my ever-sceptical mind told me the pollies have awarded themselves privileged access to the private information we're obliged to give the electoral commission.
So, what was my fabulous federal birthday present? Apparently, I'm now so ancient and infirm I get a bigger private health insurance tax rebate.
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Funding cuts threaten flying doctor services

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 14, 2018

Michael McKenna

The Royal Flying Doctor Service has warned it will be forced to abandon some of its health work in rural Australia unless the federal government reinstates funding cuts made last year.
The Turnbull government’s budget-repair measures slashed $10.2 million in funding from the RFDS this financial year in a move the 90-year-old organisation says can no longer be sustained without cutting services.
Corporate and private donors covered some of the shortfall from the budget cut — which reduced commonwealth funding to $57m — with the RFDS also using cash out of reserves normally used to buy aircraft.
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Health waste: spinal fusion added to list

  • The Australian
  • 12:00AM February 14, 2018

Sean Parnell

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Spinal fusion for unexplained back pain will today be put on the list of unnecessary, wasteful and risky medical procedures, promising patients more clarity over their options and potentially saving the health system tens of millions of dollar a year.
The move comes after The Australian revealed health insurers had nominated a reduction in spinal fusion surgery as one of the doctor-led responses required to contain the rising costs that are driving up premiums. Even a 20 per cent reduction in hospital cases would save the industry $60 million a year, with flow-on savings for members.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has warned that insurers are “under duress” and more work needs to be done to reduce costs and stabilise the industry. Its latest figures, ­released yesterday, showed the proportion of Australians with hospital cover had fallen again, to 45.6 per cent, the lowest rate since mid-2011.
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Healthscope boss in swipe at insurers over costs of clinical care

  • The Australian
  • 1:40PM February 15, 2018
  • Sarah-Jane Tasker
The head of private hospital group Healthscope, Gordon Ballantyne, has argued health insurers are not the best judge of where clinical care should be delivered, adding there is no such thing as “low-value care”.
The Healthscope chief executive made the comments after reporting a 12.8 per cent dip in first-half profit to $77.5 million, with an “adverse patient case mix” fuelled by a strong flu season impacting the result.
Shares in Healthscope (HSO) were today trading lower on the back of the financial result, down 3.4 per cent at $1.80
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Veil of secrecy leaves Australian patients in the dark

Stephen Duckett
Published: February 15 2018 - 3:20PM
One in four patients who stay overnight in an Australian hospital will have something go wrong,  but a veil of secrecy hangs over which hospitals – and which doctors – have higher rates of complications and which are safety leaders.
The Grattan Institute has also found that a patient’s risk of developing a complication also varies dramatically depending on which hospital they go to. While researching our report All complications should count: Using data to make hospitals safer, we found that in some cases, the additional risk at the worst-performing hospitals can be four times higher than at the best performers.
Safety statistics are collected for both public and private hospitals but they are kept secret, not just from patients but also from doctors and hospitals, who should be able to access this information to see how they are performing compared to their peers – and to learn from those who do things best.
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Health insurance gains buoy Medibank profit

Published: February 16 2018 - 9:04AM
Medibank Private has lifted half-year profit nearly 6 per cent, but cost pressures on consumers have kept growth in health insurance premium revenue to less than 2 per cent.
The health insurer booked a $245.6 million profit in the six months to December 31, thanks to improved operating profit in health insurance and Medibank Health businesses offsetting lower earnings from investments.
The company's shares rose as much as 4.8 per cent to $3.185 in early trade - their biggest intraday percentage gain since late August.
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An old age overspent on health

Not all old people can stay in their own homes and there will be demand for more nursing home facilities.
Australia spends more than 10 per cent of its gross domestic product on health. The federal government, the state and territory governments and individuals are contributing to the total spend of close to $200 billion a year.
Australia is not the highest spender on health, or the lowest. The US is an outlier when it comes to spending, at more than 17 per cent of GDP, but there are plenty of countries that spend more than Australia — France, Germany, Canada and the Nordic countries. Britain spends a little less while other examples of low spenders include Israel, South Korea, Greece (not surprisingly) and Hungary.
While it is true that overall spending on health in Australia has slowed in recent times — in the year ending 2015-16, for instance, spending rose by only 3.6 per cent, which is well below the 10-year average of 4.7 per cent — the pressures of an ageing ­population have only just begun to emerge.
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Medibank to return $20m to customers as a ‘loyalty bonus’

  • The Australian
  • 8:42AM February 16, 2018
  • Sarah-Jane Tasker
Australian health insurance giant Medibank has pledged to return $20 million to its customers after recording a 5.9 per cent jump in profit to $245.6 million.
Craig Drummond, chief executive of the Australian-listed health insurer (MPL), announced today that the company was launching a “priority” program for its customers, to formally recognise and thank customers who had been with Medibank for 10 years or more.
To mark the launch of this program, we are pleased to announce a $20m one-off loyalty bonus to our Medibank customers in June this year, starting with our priority customers,” Mr Drummond said.
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The unhealthy portion of Medibank premiums not spent on health

Michael Pascoe
Published: February 16 2018 - 12:07PM
There are different ways of looking at Medibank’s first-half profit announced this morning.
Let’s consider two of them:
The market sees a 1.8 per cent rise in premium income to $3.2 billion and total revenue of $3.5 billion, yielding a sweet 5.9 per cent rise in net profit to $245.6 million with the interim dividend up 4.8 per cent to 5.5 cents a share, fully franked.
The rise in claims (what Medibank paid out to customers) was held down to 1.3 per cent at $2.6 billion. The gross health insurance profit (premiums minus claims) was $550.5 million, a gross margin of 17.3 per cent. The management expense ratio eased from 8.9 per cent to 8.6 per cent.
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International Issues.

In the US, white supremacists have infiltrated police and military to get weapons training

Matthew Hall
Published: February 11 2018 - 2:40PM
New York: Law enforcement, the military, and politics in the United States have been infiltrated by white supremacists, who use it to recruit others and gain paramilitary training.
The claim, by a former neo-Nazi skinhead who now works as an anti-racist activist, is supported by internal reports on local policing by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the top domestic law enforcement agency in the US.
Christian Picciolini, a 44-year-old, award-winning activist from Chicago who now works to deradicalise racist extremists, says members of his former neo-Nazi gang pursued careers with police departments, joined the military, or ran for political office.
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'International Space Station for sale': NASA documents reveal Trump selloff plan

Christian Davenport
Published: February 12 2018 - 8:12AM
Washington: The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station (ISS) into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry.
The White House plans to stop funding for the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon it altogether, and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post.
"The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time – it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform," the document states.
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Trudeau holds firm as Duterte vows to end Canada and US arms buys

Clarissa Batino & Andreo Calonzo
Published: February 11 2018 - 6:30PM
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is undeterred by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's vow to end military purchases from countries including the US and Canada that impose conditions on how the weaponry is used, standing by his country's review of a helicopter sale.
"The statements that have been coming out of the Philippines on the potential or possible uses of those helicopters have given us cause to need to follow up on that, and that's exactly what we're doing," Trudeau said Saturday in Los Angeles, during a visit with the city's mayor.
Trudeau responded after Duterte on Friday said he's scrapping the acquisition of 16 Canadian Bell helicopters.
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OxyContin maker to stop promoting opioids to doctors

Published: February 11 2018 - 11:48AM
OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP said that it has cut its sales force in half and will stop promoting opioids to doctors following widespread criticism of the ways that drugmakers market addictive painkillers.
The drugmaker said it will inform doctors on Monday that its sales representatives will no longer visit their offices to discuss its opioid products. It will now have about 200 sales representatives, Purdue said.
"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers," the Stamford, Connecticut-based company said in a statement.
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The risks of Trump’s pump-priming policies

  • The Australian
  • 12:13PM February 13, 2018
The Trump administration’s budget “request’’, issued overnight, points to soaring US government deficits and debt. That should be sounding an alert for overly-indebted corporates and households around the world.
While the proposals will probably be reshaped by Congress, the overall direction of economic policy in the US is clear.
Trump is pursuing a supercharged growth strategy (he sees no reason, reportedly, why the US economy can’t grow at 6 per cent) that will see the US produce a deficit of close to $US1 trillion this year and more than $US1 trillion in 2019. US government debt, now just above $US20 trillion, is expected to reach $US30 trillion within a decade.
With the US economy growing quite strongly and unemployment at 4.1 per cent, the Trump tax cuts and infrastructure and defence spending agendas represent the priming of a pump that was already functioning at full capacity.
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Israeli police recommend indictment of Netanyahu on corruption charges

Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash
Published: February 14 2018 - 6:44AM
Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be indicted in two corruption cases, police recommended on Tuesday, ramping up pressure on the leader who has served more than a decade in office.
After months of investigations, Israeli police handed over their recommendations to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday evening.
Netanyahu maintained his innocence in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night.
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A whirlwind envelops the White House, and the revolving door spins

Peter Baker
Published: February 14 2018 - 3:11AM
Washington: The doors at the White House have been swinging a lot lately. A deputy chief of staff moved on. A speechwriter resigned. The associate attorney general stepped down. The chief of staff offered to quit. And that was just Friday.
All of that came after the departure of Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary who cleared out his office last week amid accusations of spousal abuse. The White House had overlooked reported problems with his security clearance last year in part, officials said, because of a reluctance to lose yet another senior aide, particularly one seen as so professional and reliable.
More than a year into his administration, President Donald Trump is presiding over a staff in turmoil, one with a 34 per cent turnover rate, higher than any White House in decades. He has struggled to fill openings, unwilling to hire Republicans he considers disloyal and unable to entice Republicans who consider him unstable. Those who do come to work for him often do not last long, burning out from a volatile, sometimes cutthroat environment exacerbated by tweets and subpoenas.
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South Africa's President Jacob Zuma resigns 'with immediate effect'

Published: February 15 2018 - 11:59AM
  South African President Jacob Zuma resigned on Wednesday, bringing an end to his scandal-marred tenure and leaving the nation's leadership in the hands of the ruling African National Congress's new leader, Cyril Ramaphosa.
"The ANC should never be divided in my name," Zuma said in a 30-minute farewell address to the nation.
"I have therefore come to the decision to resign as the president of the republic with immediate effect," he said.
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Former Playmate alleges she had affair with Donald Trump

Brent Lang
Published: February 17 2018 - 3:48AM
US President Donald Trump engaged in elaborate efforts to cover his tracks while engaging in multiple extramarital affairs, according to Ronan Farrow's latest blockbuster report in the New Yorker.
The story relies heavily on the firsthand account of Karen McDougal, a former Playmate of the Year, who recounts her consensual affair with the President before he was elected.
The White House called the report "fake news," its default response to unflattering stories.
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Russia indictments present new reality for Trump crying ‘hoax’

Michael Shear
Published: February 17 2018 - 8:29AM
Washington: In November, President Donald Trump told reporters that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin when he vigorously denied having meddled in the 2016 presidential election, an allegation that Trump has repeatedly called a hoax.
"Every time he sees me he says I didn't do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it," Trump said at the time.
On Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, indicted 13 Russian nationals and described a vast, sophisticated Russian operation to interfere in the election, delivering to Trump the kind of evidence that the president has long sought to dismiss as political attacks from his rivals.
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Trump's top security adviser says Russian meddling 'incontrovertible'

Tracy Wilkinson
Published: February 18 2018 - 4:27AM
National security adviser HR McMaster said on Saturday that evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 US election was "now really incontrovertible" after indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three companies.
Speaking at an international security conference in Munich, Germany, McMaster lent credence to a widening scandal that President Donald Trump has routinely dismissed as a hoax.
"The evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain," McMaster said. The US was becoming "more and more adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion," he said.

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I look forward to comments on all this!
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David.