Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review Of The Ongoing Post - Budget Controversy 20th November 2014. No Sign Of Stopping!

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 25th week since it was released.
Other financial matters are still also bubbling along but the G20 has really been the big one this week! Tony Abbott complaining just how hard it is being to make budget progress and reports of huge budget blowout also featured.
The Government response to Ebola seems to be finally lifting off and the war between doctors and pharmacists seems to have gone ballistic. How stupid are these turf wars!


Abbott's lost credibility: no surprises, no excuses

Date November 10, 2014 - 12:15AM

Ross McMullin

Australia's most successful federal opposition leaders since 1950 - in fact, probably since Federation - have been Tony Abbott and Gough Whitlam. They could hardly have been more different in how they went about it.
Whitlam transformed the ALP, spearheading a tempestuously contested overhaul of his party's procedures and policies, and conspicuously outperformed three Liberal prime ministers in the process. He was forward-looking, optimistic and creative.  Some of the recent tributes underplayed his sheer brilliance as opposition leader - understandably, as it was overshadowed by the pyrotechnics that came later in government.
Whitlam's success in opposition was all the more striking because of the context. He became ALP leader when the party was reeling from its 1966 electoral disaster, Labor's eighth defeat in a row and a particularly dispiriting one.

$51 billion black hole in Treasurer Joe Hockey's budget

Date November 11, 2014 - 12:00AM

Peter Martin

Economics Editor, The Age

The Senate and the deteriorating iron ore price have knocked a $51 billion hole in Treasurer Joe Hockey's first budget, an independent analysis has found. It says part of the problem is that the budget is seen as "unfair".
Presented as Mr Hockey prepares to meet international finance ministers in Brisbane to push for measures to accelerate world growth, it shows the growth outlook for Australia has slipped, with growth of just 2.1 per cent expected in 2015-16 instead of the 3 per cent forecast in the budget.
When the budget was struck in May the iron ore price was $US103 ($119) a tonne. It has since fallen to $US83 taking as much as $10 billion out of tax revenue and helping push wage  growth to its lowest level in a decade.
So low has wage growth become that "it seems that not even bracket creep can get the budget back into surplus",  says the Canberra consultancy Macroeconomics in a report delivered to clients on Tuesday.

$51 billion budget black hole forecast 'wrong', Treasurer Joe Hockey says

Date November 11, 2014 - 9:10PM

Lisa Cox and Latika Bourke

Independent analysis pointing to a $51-billion black hole in the Abbott government budget is wrong, says Treasurer Joe Hockey, after earlier on Tuesday declining to deny the figure.
The Treasurer changed his tune in an afternoon radio interview with Sydney station 2GB after earlier on Tuesday failing to refute the figure when it was put to him in an interview with Adelaide radio 5AA.
"The figure is wrong," Mr Hockey told 2GB, while refusing to provide any further insight into the government's budget forecasts. "I am confident it's not going to be around that mark."
He said the government was still finalising its numbers for the mid-year budget update in December and was waiting on ABS data that would be released.

Doctors hauled in over rebates rort at major clinics

Sean Parnell

DOZENS of doctors have been implicated in a patients-for-profits scam running out of major medical clinics across Australia.
The Department of Human Services used data-matching technology to identify 207 health practitioners with suspect billing practices and has now gathered evidence against a quarter of them. Medicare investigators interviewed the suspects amid concerns they were generating more government rebates and patient co-payments than their peers and, in the process, potentially putting patients at risk of misdiagnosis.
While doctors are normally red-flagged only if they breach the 80-20 rule — 80 or more services on 20 or more days over a 12-month period — the investigation has focused on 60 mostly urban clinics where four or more doctors were billing at high levels.
The Australian can reveal the department has referred 16 medical practitioners to the Professional Services Review to determine a suitable punishment. A further 42 practitioners have been put on notice that if their billing practices do not change in the next six months, they too will be referred to the PSR.

Joe Hockey's constituents not buying the Treasurer's tough on tax avoidance talk

Date November 11, 2014 - 8:24AM

Heath Aston

Political reporter

Treasurer Joe Hockey has made tax avoidance by the world's largest companies one of the cornerstone issues for discussion by the world's most powerful leaders at the G20 summit in Brisbane this week – but it appears he still has some way to go to convince those closer to home that the government is serious about extracting a fair tax contribution from companies operating in Australia.   
Three-quarters of people in Mr Hockey's own electorate believe the Coalition has not done enough to tackle corporate tax avoidance, a poll has found.
A ReachTel poll of 789 constituents of the seat of North Sydney, found a majority of Liberal voters – 59 per cent – responded no to the question: "Do you think the government is doing enough to stop corporate tax avoidance".
Based on 2013 election results, only one in five people vote for Labor in North Sydney. But of those, 72 per cent were dissatisfied with the government's performance on company tax.

Does your area have lower life expectancy than Iraq? New data reveals remote areas in Australia have shorter life expectancy 

Remote western New South Wales, Northern Territory and Western Australia have shorter life expectancy of North Korea and Iraq 

Life expectancy of 67.8 years for western NSW 

North Korea life expectancy is 69 and Iraq is 68.5 

Northern Territory's life expectancy is equal to that of Liberia, which is currently in the midst of the Ebola crisis 

Western NSW high death rate occurs due to the amount of people with diabetes, obesity and heavy smoking rates

For 10 years now rural towns in western NSW has been among the bottom 10 areas for life expectancy 

People living in remote western New South Wales have a shorter life than someone who lives in North Korea or Iraq, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported in their latest data.
The life expectancy in rural NSW is one of the worst in the country, according to an analysis by Fairfax Media
Andrew Lewis, the mayor of Bourke Shire -which is one of the worst affected areas in Australia, said your chances of death is much higher when living in a rural area.

Hockey's Treasury attacks return to haunt him

The mid-year economic and fiscal outlook to be released next month will be very interesting. Scary, but interesting.
Among other things, it will help settle an old score that goes right back to 2009. That’s the year in which the Coalition began accusing Labor of massaging Treasury figures to make false promises of a budget surplus.
Labor’s reply through the GFC years and beyond was that the government -- and Treasury’s forecasting team -- were simply blindsided by global forces that shredded the revenue base.
A new study released on Monday by consultancy firm Macroeconomics provides an independent analysis of Treasurer Hockey’s first full year running the budget, and does much to reignite the debate.

New hit to budget in wages weakness

David Uren

David Crowe

THE federal budget is about to take another blow that could deepen the deficit and intensify pressure on Joe Hockey to search for spending cuts next year.
As the Treasurer warned of “lost ground” in tax revenue, falling wage growth is the latest headache to trouble the budget forecasts, with individual tax payments unlikely to deliver the $50 billion revenue boost Mr Hockey was counting on.
The budget is already expected to suffer a shortfall on company tax as a result of falling mining company profits, but the softening wage growth will present a second threat to the government’s economic plans.
Mr Hockey blasted Labor yesterday for preventing the passage of his budget savings but the opposition has rebuked the Treasurer over the tax shortfall when he had claimed in the past there was no “revenue problem” facing the government.

Crikey slams Hockey for its own Budget stupidity

Australian budget
It’s all care and no responsibility at Crikey today as Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer lash Joe Hockey for missing his Budget forecasts:
The government was committed to “more realistic long-term assumptions on the economic and fiscal outlook,” said Treasurer Joe Hockey last December when he released the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann chimed in: “It is a matter of record that the previous government invariably overestimated revenue and underestimated expenditure. They kept promising surplus budgets and kept delivering more deficits. Our core commitment with this budget update is to draw a line in the sand as the Treasurer said and to provide a believable set of figures.”
As we’ve since seen, the line in the sand has already had to be redrawn at least once, and now we know it will be redrawn yet again in next months’ MYEFO.

AMA says budget woes driving health policy

Updated: 5:10 pm, Thursday, 13 November 2014
Budget woes, not patient care, are driving the Abbott government's health policies, the head of the Australian Medical Association says.
Associate Professor Brian Owler has used a speech on the sidelines of the G20 summit to attack the government's lack of real health policies.
The AMA president says it's focused instead on meeting its election commitment to repair the budget.

No rash cuts in MYEFO: Hockey

  • AAP
  • 13 Nov, 8:22 PM
Treasurer Joe Hockey won't be panicked into making more budget cuts for fear of harming the economy.
Such assurances came as a major US investment bank cut its Australian economic growth forecasts for this year and the next in anticipation of soft consumer spending.
Mr Hockey is due to hand down his mid-year budget review in December.
It will have to take into account an unexpected decline in export revenue due to a 30 per cent drop in iron ore prices and less tax revenue from lame wages growth.
Also, a number of measures from the May budget remain stuck in the Senate.
But Mr Hockey says the economy is still growing and he does not expect a bigger deficit next year.

What are the critical health issues for G20 leaders?

Michelle Hughes | Nov 13, 2014 9:35PM
Global meetings like the G20 Leaders Summit are not generally reported through a health lens, although the decisions undertaken at the conference can have profound ramifications for health, at a local and global level.
For example, yesterday’s landmark agreement  between the US and China ,which included the announcement of further emission reduction goals, lends some hope to meaningful discussion regarding climate change and health at the summit.  The health impacts of climate change,  social and economic inequality and the TPP are just some of the concerns Croakey contributors would like to see discussed at the G20.

Opinion: Lesson learnt from GFC is that prosperity doesn’t come from austerity

  • Paul Syvret
  • The Courier-Mail
  • November 15, 2014 12:00AM
AUSTRALIA received another reminder this week that the aftermath of the global financial crisis, which sparked the creation of the G20 in its current form, is still causing considerable economic pain.
Consultancy firm Macroeconomics in recent days released a review of the Australian Budget that concluded our deficit will blow out by a cumulative $52 billion over the next four years.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has conceded that since handing down the May Budget, conditions have deteriorated markedly, although he maintains the $52 billion figure is off the mark.
Macroeconomics sheets attribute some of the blame to “successive governments’ wasteful spending and tax cuts that frittered away the windfall gains from the mining boom”, as well as a raft of key Budget measures that remain blocked in the Senate.


Australia pledged Ebola workers three weeks before telling public, David Cameron reveals

Date November 14, 2014

Heath Aston

Political reporter

It was supposed to be a light-hearted aside in praise of the can-do approach of Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop. But an anecdote by British Prime Minister David Cameron during his address to Parliament has inadvertently shed light on the Abbott government's much-criticised path to committing health workers to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
The government offered to send doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone more than three weeks before informing the public.
During his speech, Mr Cameron recalled running into Ms Bishop at a summit in Italy.
"Only last month, your Foreign Minister strode across the room towards me … I wondered for a moment whether I was heading for what I'm told we now need to call a shirt-fronting," he said.

GP Co-Payment.

11 November 2014, 6.30am AEDT

Medicare spending on general practice is value for money


Helena Britt

Christopher Harrison

Clare Bayram

Graeme Miller

Joan Henderson

Julie Gordon

Last year taxpayers spent A$6.3 billion on GP services through Medicare, about 6% of the total government health expenditure. This was a 50% increase (A$2.1 billion) in today’s dollars over the past decade and equates to about A$60 more per person in real terms.
Health Minister Peter Dutton says this growth is “unsustainable”. He plans to introduce a GP co-payment in hope of reducing the number of times Australians visit a GP and to ensure users foot some of the bill.
But targeting primary care for cost savings could backfire. Research we’re releasing today shows that while the number of GP visits has increased, the services are cost-effective. If the same services were performed in other areas of the health system, they would cost considerably more.

Medicare co-payment: government accused of planning 'backdoor move'

Labor calls the changes a ‘tax on sick Australians’ and fears they will be pushed through by bypassing parliament
The government may be about to bypass parliament and push through the controversial Medicare co-payment scheme in a “sneaky backdoor move”, the opposition has claimed.
Labor has highlighted a message from the health department to medical practice software companies telling them to prepare to incorporate changes to accommodate the $7 payment.
The opposition says any move to impose “a tax on sick Australians” should be ruled out unless it is “put to the people”.
At the same time, the Abbott government is facing a budget crisis as the treasurer, Joe Hockey, warns of falling revenue combined with a Senate logjam on the Coalition’s budget cuts, leaving a bigger financial hole.

Co-payment could raise health bill

Nov. 11, 2014, 5:05 p.m.
THOSE in need will be unable to afford essential medicines if proposed increases to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payment are introduced as planned in January. 
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia said previous increases in PBS costs or changes to the safety net had resulted in patients opting not to fill original or repeat prescriptions. 
The guild fears this could lead to a higher cost across the health system through a combination of increased demand for GPs and specialists as well as unnecessary hospital visits. 

GP co-payment doubts

Andrew Tillett Canberra
November 12, 2014, 5:49 am
A new report has cast fresh doubt over the Abbott Government's proposed $7 co-payment for doctors' visits, finding GPs can deliver medical services more cheaply than other parts of the health system.
Sydney University's annual Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health report found that Medicare cost $6.3 billion on GP services in 2013-14, which made up just 6 per cent of total government spending on health.
The report highlighted how the average cost per service at a GP clinic was $47, plus a $5 contribution from the patient.
But if the same service was performed in a hospital emergency department, the cost to taxpayers shot up to $599 in the case of WA.

The $7 GP fee is headed for defeat in parliament but Federal Government tells medical software providers to prepare so doctors can charge it

  • Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter
  • Herald Sun
  • November 12, 2014 9:00PM
FEARS the $7 GP fee could be implemented without parliamentary approval have been heightened with the government telling medical software companies to incorporate the fee in their products.
Health Minister Peter Dutton has previously refused to rule out bringing in the charge via regulation, bypassing parliament in the same way the government reintroduced indexation of petrol excise.
In an email to software providers on November 7, the Department of Human Services signals it is preparing apace for the introduction of the GP co-payment fee even though it hasn’t been considered by parliament.
“The Australian Government Department of Human Services (Human Services) anticipates implementing the Patient Contribution Budget Measure from 1 July 2015,” the email says.

Govt has secret plan for co-payment: Labor

November 13, 2014, 9:15 am
Labor believes the federal government is planning to bypass a hostile Senate and introduce its controversial GP co-payment via the back door.
The opposition has seized on an email the Department of Human Services sent to software companies telling them to make changes to accommodate the $7 charge.
It claims that is proof the government will implement the measure without legislation, in defiance of parliament and public opinion.
The government recently used tariff regulations to reintroduce indexation of the fuel excise, a move that needs parliamentary approval within 12 months.

MBS rebate cut to sneak in the back door?

13th Nov 2014
THE ALP believes the federal government is planning to bypass a hostile Senate and introduce its controversial GP co-payment via the back door.
The opposition has seized on an email the Department of Human Services sent to software companies telling them to make changes to accommodate the $7 charge.
It claims that it is proof the government will implement the measure without legislation, in defiance of parliament and public opinion.
The government recently used tariff regulations to reintroduce indexation of the fuel excise, a move that needs parliamentary approval within 12 months.

Co-pay could trigger financial chaos for clinics

13 November, 2014 Paul Smith
GP software providers are privately warning of financial chaos across general practice should the Federal Government push ahead with its $7 co-payment reform.
The concerns centre on the millions of dollars that are meant to flow into GP clinics under a planned safety net that the government has claimed would protect vulnerable patients from large, out-of-pocket costs.
Under the proposed reform, due to start from July, rebates for all GP attendance items, pathology and radiology services will be cut by $5.
However, for concessional patients these items will be restored to their current levels once they have paid $7 gap fees for 10 services.

Pharmacy Related Articles.

Chemists now on front line of health care

By Nicole Langdon

Nov. 10, 2014, midnight
PLUNKETTS Chemmart Pharmacy has joined a national push to step up the role of community pharmacies, easing the burden on our back pockets and on over-worked general practitioners (GPs).
Pharmacist Judy Plunkett described the campaign launched at Parliament House last week as a win-win for the community and the ailing national healthcare system.
In a lot of cases, she said, clinically-trained pharmacists can provide the same advice and assistance as GPs, free of charge, without an appointment or long waiting times at accident and emergency or a medical centre.

Chemist Warehouse ads attract complaints

12 November, 2014 Chris Brooker
Questions have been asked in Federal Parliament regarding possible breaching of the advertising code by pharmacy chains.
Chemist Warehouse was mentioned by name in the Senate as the subject of complaints regarding ethical advertising.
The existence of possible investigations into pharmacy advertising was raised at a meeting of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee on 31 October.

Pharmacy pay in the spotlight

14 November, 2014 Christie Moffat
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Professional Pharmacists Australia have met to discuss future changes to the Pharmacy Industry Award and penalty rates for pharmacy staff.
During the meeting, which took place earlier this week, the PPA presented 1235 pharmacist petition signatures that called for an increase in the base rates of the Pharmacy Industry Award, and the need to address low pay in community pharmacy.
Dr Geoff March, PPA president, said that the Guild had been invited to join its advocacy efforts to the Fair Work Commission to increase the base salary for employee pharmacists, as part of its four-yearly review of all employment Awards.
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. Maybe the next few weeks of parliament will clarify things this time but I doubt it. The Reps come back on Nov 14 for a British PM speech and the Senate in the following week. Both rise until the new year on Dec 4, 2014.
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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