Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review Of The Ongoing Post - Budget Controversy 18th September 2014. It Just Rolls On!

Budget Night was on Tuesday 13th May, 2014 and the fuss has still not settled by a long shot.
It is amazing how the discussion on the GP Co-Payment just runs and runs. Some more this week.
Here are some of the more interesting articles I have spotted this 16th week since it was released.
Parliament is now up for a while and apparently does not come back until 22nd September.


'Confected' budget emergency: Chris Bowen to slam Joe Hockey

Date September 11, 2014 - 6:11AM

Mark Kenny

Chief political correspondent

Labor's Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen will launch a major broadside at the Coalition government on Thursday alleging it has confected a budget emergency in a bid to permanently damage Labor's reputation as a financial manager.
And he will propose three initiatives designed to lift the fiscal debate above politics by strengthening the powers and responsibilities of the independent Parliamentary Budget Office by taking some tasks away from Treasury.
Mr Bowen will use a televised National Press Club address to claim that Treasurer Joe Hockey shifted some of the measurement parameters in last year's mid-year economic and fiscal outlook document - the half-yearly budget snapshot traditionally released towards Christmas.

Just what the doctors ordered

Anne Hyland
Brian Owler has dropped his eldest daughter at school, assisted a colleague in surgery and reviewed paperwork that includes notes for an afternoon speech by the time he arrives – punctually – for lunch.
I had envisaged an older, professorial type, but in fact Owler, a neurosurgeon who is also the president of the Australian Medical Association, is neither. He’s charismatic, refreshingly down to earth and a little nerdy.
The 43-year-old has picked Bistro Mint on Sydney’s Macquarie Street, near the NSW State Parliament, for lunch as it’s convenient to his next appointment.
He became AMA president in May and stepped right into the federal government’s crosshairs as it pushes to introduce a widely unpopular $7 co-payment for doctor visits. Owler, who has three children under the age of six, clearly relishes a challenge.

Tony Abbott makes anniversary pledge to ‘protect the vulnerable’

Prime minister says he will repair the budget, which has been criticised for hitting the poorest the hardest
Lenore Taylor, political editor
Tony Abbott has pledged to use the remainder of his term to “protect the vulnerable” and also to build roads and repair the budget, as the government marks the first anniversary of its election.
Just back from a trip to India and Malaysia, Abbott attended a Father’s Day event on Sunday with his own dad, Dick, suggesting voters should reserve judgment on his government – which trails Labor in the polls – and conceding he could have done some things better.
“Look, with the wisdom of 20:20 hindsight there are always some things (that could have been done differently) but we’ve faced some difficult challenges and I think we’ve handled them pretty well. In the end, that’s going to be a matter for the people to judge in two years’ time but we have faced some tough challenges. We’ve faced them squarely and honestly and we’ve done the best we can, sometimes under difficult circumstances,” he said.

Sensible healthcare reforms are necessary

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Broadcast: 08/09/2014
Reporter: Emma Alberici
Health Minister, Peter Dutton, discusses government health policy including the proposed Medicare co-payment.


EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: With the carbon tax and mining tax now repealed, the Government will turn its attention to its next big-ticket Budget measure, the Medicare co-payment. So far, Clive Palmer and his PUP senators are not for turning. The Health Minister Peter Dutton remains hopeful. He joined me from Canberra a short time ago to discuss that and the future of Australian pharmacies.

First Year Of Abbott Government.

Tony Abbott admits: we could have done some things better

  • AAP
  • September 07, 2014 1:19PM

Simon King

TONY Abbott has acknowledged he and his party could have some things better in their first year in power.
But speaking at a Father’s Day community tea in northern Sydney he was attending with his 90-year-old father Dick, the Prime Minister defended his party’s performance after one year in office and said overall he “looked back at the last 12 months with some satisfaction”.
“With the wisdom of 20-20 hindsight there are always somethings (we could have done differently), but we’ve faced some difficult challenges and I think we’ve handled them pretty well,” Mr Abbott, who had just returned after a three-day trip to India and Malaysia, said.

Year of surprises and excuses: Shorten

September 07, 2014 4:49PM
AUSTRALIANS have a right to be disappointed about what the Abbott government has served up in its first year, the opposition believes.
OPPOSITION Leader Bill Shorten says there is a sense of anxiety in the community about what the Abbott government has done in the year since it won office.
"When Tony Abbott was elected it was on the basis that things would get better," he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday, the anniversary of the election.
"Ever since then we've seen nasty surprises and pathetic excuses."
Labor would focus on standing up for ordinary Australians, Mr Shorten said.
Opposition frontbenchers issued a flurry of statements on Sunday morning pointing to promises across all portfolios they said had been broken.

Aussies feel tasered by Abbott's year: Xenophon

Date September 7, 2014 - 12:19PM
Australians feel more tasered than surprised by the Abbott government's first year in power.
That's the opinion of independent senator Nick Xenophon, who's accused the government of "sneaking up on people with quite radical changes" over the past 12 months.
"The government promised no surprises," Senator Xenophon told ABC on the one-year anniversary of Tony Abbott's election as prime minister.

Tony Abbott’s one-year report card: ‘needs to improve’

Phillip Hudson

TONY Abbott says he looks back at his first 12 months as Prime Minister with “some satisfaction”. But today’s Newspoll shows satisfied is not the word voters might use.
Of the past five prime ministers, only Julia Gillard suffered a bigger loss of support in the first year of power.
The raw numbers in Abbott’s report card are far worse than those for John Howard and Kevin Rudd who, like him, took power at general elections. The next trip to the ballot box is not due for two years so there is still plenty of time for Abbott, if he’s good enough. The government’s support has ­already risen from the alarming low of 35 per cent reached in June and July after the worst received budget in 20 years.

GP Co-Payment.

Alternative health cost-saving measures – new book

Jennifer Doggett | Sep 07, 2014 9:56PM |
Whether or not the Abbott Government gets its way on GP co-payments, the sustainability of our health system is likely to remain very much on the political agenda, Dr Agnes Walker, from the Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health, reviews a new book which aims to identify the most cost-effective health system interventions. In line with the recent Senate Committee report on out-of-pocket costs, the book argues for an increased focus on chronic disease prevention and management rather than higher costs for primary health care. Dr Walker writes:
Reducing cardiovascular risks across the Australian population would be much more cost-effective than increasing co-payments, according to a new health economics book.  The book  Health Policy in Ageing Populations: Economic Modeling of Chronic Disease Policy Options in Australia discusses ‘best value for money’ health reforms and is available as an open access ebook.  
The book is available at

Govt holds course on $7 co-payment

9th Sep 2014
THE Coalition is standing firm on plans to introduce its $7 Medicare co-payment despite no current prospect of it actually being legislated.
Health minister Peter Dutton told the ABC last night he was optimistic about introducing the reform before 1 July, 2015, and said discussions with key senators were ongoing.
"I think we can negotiate in good faith, and in private, I'm encouraged by some of the discussions we're having with the independent senators, but as you point out, people publicly have made comments and I'll leave that to them," Mr Dutton said.
Asked if that was a hint Mr Palmer was being disingenuous in ruling out support for the co-payment, Mr Dutton said he couldn't comment on private discussions.

Time to put some more health funding options on the table

Jennifer Doggett | Sep 12, 2014 9:59AM |
One of the more puzzling aspects of the current debate over health funding is the lack of new or innovative policy options being proposed by the Government and others from the conservative side of politics.  Given the level of panic being invoked about our alleged health funding crisis (disputed by many economists) it would seem logical that policy makers should be searching for viable options to combat the so-called health spending tsunami.   
Yet apart from the GP co-payment, there are few, if any, realistic policy options being put on the table for discussion.  The co-payment proposal has clearly not been accepted by either consumers or health care providers (for good reasons, as discussed at length here and here).  But since the failure of the Government to convince stakeholders that increased primary care co-payments are the way forward, there has been no ‘Plan B’ on offer to reform health funding arrangements to meet the changing needs of the community. 

Dozens air co-payment concerns: Video

Sept. 12, 2014, 3:04 p.m
A SLIGHTLY different shade of green was added to the vibrant greenery of Eaglehawk's Canterbury Park on Friday.
About 30 people held up "Save Medicare" posters in the park as part of an action day to oppose the federal government's Medicare co-payment proposal.
Shadow Health Minister Catherine King spoke to the gathering, and said it should not be government policy to discourage visits to the GP.

Sigma Pharmaceuticals lifts first-half profit, sees healthy future

Jared Lynch
Australia’s biggest listed pharmacy brand Sigma Pharmaceuticals is welcoming the prospect of a GP co-payment, saying it will be a shot in the arm for chemists.
Sigma chief executive Mark Hooper said cuts to the federal government’s $9 billion Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme were hurting pharmacists, upending their business models.
But he said the Abbott government’s controversial plan to charge a $7 co-payment for GP visits, could offset some of that pain as pharmacies start introducing more professional health services.
“If there is any hesitation from people wanting to go see a doctor, the next place they will go to is a pharmacy,” Mr Hooper said.

Pharmacy Related Articles.

Dutton rules out changes ahead of Pharmacy Guild talks

Joanna Heath
Health Minister Peter Dutton has ­conceded that pharmacies get special protections but says the ­government has no plans to change the rules that limit the number of pharmacies in ­locations and require them to be owned by pharmacists.
Mr Dutton begins negotiations soon with the Pharmacy Guild, a union that represents pharmacy owners, to ­determine the sixth community ­pharmacy agreement.
The five-year agreement sets out ­government remuneration for dispensing prescription medicines at regulated prices. It was last worth $15 billion.

No supermarket ownership of pharmacy: Dutton

9 September, 2014 Chris Brooker
The Federal Government remains unconvinced of the need for supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths to run pharmacies, according to Health Minister Peter Dutton. 
Speaking on ABC’s Lateline program, Mr Dutton reinforced his previous commitment to existing pharmacy ownership regulations.  
“The Coalition's long held the belief that we shouldn't have that corporate ownership model… we believe very strongly in a pharmacy that is owned at a community level. And I think that is an important policy for us to adopt ongoing.”
Mr Dutton said existing regulations provided the operating basis upon which Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiations are to be conducted.

The long arm of the Pharmacy Guild

Joanna Heath
Andrew Laming knows what it’s like to mess with Australia’s $15 billion pharmacy industry. In 2005, the Liberal MP was bold enough to write an op-ed arguing that taxpayer savings could be found in the price of medicines through more generics.
Two years later, in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, petitions and leaflets designed to weaken his chances of re-election were handed out to people when they walked into a chemist. The campaign was led by the powerful pharmacy owners’ union, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
“It made absolutely no difference at all, except every pharmacist knew me by my first name,” says Laming, shrugging off the experience. He’s a rare politician to be so relaxed about the guild.
Pharmacies exist in a parallel world, immune from the ordinary forces of competition. They are cocooned in laws and regulations that prevent big companies like supermarkets from muscling in and “location rules” that create mini-fiefdoms.

Pharmacy rules ‘archaic’, says Chemist Warehouse’s Gance

Joanna Heath and Jared Lynch

Key points

  • Damien Gance says regulations raise costs and prevent innovation.
  • Pharmacy Guild argues the rules benefit the public.
The reclusive group manager of Chemist Warehouse has broken his silence ahead of the government’s competition review, describing regulations which prevent large companies such as supermarkets owning chemists as bizarre and archaic.
Damien Gance oversees 260 stores nationwide. He argues current arrangements protecting the industry should be abolished.
“The impact of regulation has been to raise costs for consumers, to prevent innovation in the industry and to undermine the value of investments,” he said in a submission to the review. He estimated his businesses’ large-scale and heavy discount model had saved $15 million in pharmaceutical benefit scheme costs in 2010-11.

Supermarket pharmacy worth considering: AMA

11 September, 2014 Chris Brooker
The AMA appears to have no opposition to pharmacy services being provided in supermarkets, but is concerned with pharmacists checking patients’ blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  
Speaking yesterday at a briefing at Parliament House, AMA national president Dr Brian Owler questioned the Community Pharmacy Agreement and expanding pharmacy services, while appearing to support opening up prescription medicine sales.
When asked if Coles and Woolworths should be allowed to sell prescription medicines, Dr Owler said: “If the best thing is for the patient being able to access medicines at a cheaper rate, but still have access to a pharmacist that has the sort of training and expertise to provide the information to the person that's collecting their script…. then that's something that I think needs to be considered”.
His comments have drawn a strong response from George Tambassis, national president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

Guild hits back at AMA over supermarket support

12 September, 2014 Christie Moffat
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says recent claims from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) that supermarket pharmacies are worth “consideration” are contradictory to previous statements made by the organisation.
Earlier this week, AMA national president Dr Brian Owler was questioned on whether supermarkets should be permitted to sell prescription medicines.
Dr Owler said the case “should be looked at in terms of what the best thing is for the patient”.
However, a spokesperson for the Guild quoted an AMA media release from 1 July 2014, where Dr Owler stated, “Good health is not something you can pick off a supermarket shelf”.

Medicare Locals.

ACT’s future Primary Health Network – opportunities galore

5 September, 2014
Ms Leanne Wells
Dr Paresh Dawda
The Budget brings Medicare Locals short life to an end in June 2015.  Their function as a primary health care organisation will be replaced by Primary Health Networks (PHNs).  Successful PHNs will be announced next year, following an open contestable process; the details of which are expected in Spring.  The ACT Medicare Local  (ACTML) will tender to be the ACT’s PHN.  For the ACTML this is a natural progression in a unique jurisdiction and the reforms offer a springboard to the next level.
The ‘Horvarth’ Report has been endorsed by the Federal Government and provides a window on the specification for PHNs.  The expectations include a paramount role for general practice as well as other primary care providers.  A key function will be to integrate care across the whole health system leading to improved patient outcomes.  Where services gaps exist, they will commission those services rather than provide them (unless there are exceptional circumstances).
I also have to say reading all the articles I still have no idea what is actually going to happen with the Budget at the end of the day!
To remind readers there is also a great deal of useful health discussion here from The Conversation.
Also a huge section on the overall budget found here:

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