Thursday, April 23, 2015

2016 Budget Watch. Parliament Closed Until Budget Day. It’s Coming Very Soon!

Last Budget Night was on Tuesday 13th May, 2014 and it is still not finalised -apparently $27Billion still unresolved!
We now look forward to see what we might see next time. I am sure this will be fun.
In the last few weeks it has been huge with early leaks and a Tax White Paper and a Competition Final Report released. Too much for most to even start to get their heads around!
In the last 10 days or so we have had changes to super, dividend imputation and negative gearing ruled out.
This week the leaks have started in earnest so it begins to get interesting! More news on Super, Pensions and new Taxes are all coming into view!
The pharmacists remain very grumpy also it would seem!
Budget Night is May 12, 2015.
Articles looking forward and back this week include.

General Budget Issues.

Trade Minister Robb under pressure to reveal details so far of TPP 12-nation pact

  • April 13, 2015 1:15PM
  • Malcolm Farr
IT’S a treaty aimed at including Australia in a powerful trade bloc of 12 nations generating 40 per cent of the world’s economy — and it’s being negotiated in secret.
The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has been labelled ‘the dirtiest deal you’ve never heard of’ by Australian action group GetUp, has roused anger and apprehension on both sides of the ocean. Now governments are under pressure to open up the negotiations and reveal what has been decided over the past 10 years.
“Politicians and governments need to have enough self-confidence to be able to have a contest of ideas, rather than doing something in secret and dropping it on the table,” said Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, who on this occasion shares the views of the Greens.
But so far the government negotiators can only reply: Trust us.

Why Hockey will have to clean up Costello's superannuation mess in May budget

Date April 14, 2015 - 8:22AM

Peter Martin

Peter Costello's largesse towards superannuants has left a vast hole in the budget.
Call it karma. It has fallen to Joe Hockey to undo two of the stupidest and potentially most expensive decisions ever made by an Australian government.
They were made by the Howard government of which Hockey was a part. But they were driven by its treasurer, Peter Costello, and by the Treasury itself. Costello announced both decisions on budget night 2006 with something of a flourish. They constituted "the most significant change to Australia's superannuation system in decades".
So great was the cost, the Abbott government reportedly considered axing the pension extension in its first budget. 
They would "sweep away the current raft of complexity faced by retirees, increase retirement incomes, give greater flexibility as to how and when superannuation can be drawn down, and improve incentives for older Australians to stay in the workforce".

Reserve Bank carries the weight of monetary policy while Coalition dithers

But there is only so much the RBA can do to manage the patchwork economy created by the Abbott government
When setting monetary policy, the Reserve Bank of Australia almost always has to deal with conflicting pressures when it decides whether a particular level for the official cash rate is appropriate.
That dilemma has been evident in recent times where the RBA has confronted a generally weak economy with rising unemployment on the one hand, and incredibly strong house price growth on the other.
What to do is the difficult decision for the RBA, as the weakness in the economy would normally mean lower interest rates are necessary while rampagingly strong house prices would normally demand higher interest rates.

Leaked Federal Government mental health report recommends redirecting $1 billion from acute hospital care to community-based services

A leaked report commissioned by the Federal Government recommends redirecting more than $1 billion in funding from acute hospital care to community-based mental health services.
In Opposition, the Coalition made a review of mental health services a priority and ordered the National Health Commission to conduct a review when it assumed power in 2013.
Former health minister Peter Dutton received the document last November but the review is yet to be made public.
The ABC's 7.30 program has obtained part of the review, which says the current system is poorly planned and integrated and is a "massive drain on people's wellbeing".

Budget 2015: What we know so far

By political correspondent Emma Griffiths
April 13, 2015
Budget 2015 is shaping up to be a far different beast than last year's broad-scale "budget repair job", if early indications from the Prime Minister and Treasurer are anything to go by.
According to Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey will unveil a "dull and routine" budget on May 12 - one which will not seek to protect the federal coffers at the expense of the household purse.
But there will be changes.
Already we know there will be a centrepiece "families package" targeted at working parents paying for childcare, and a small business tax cut.
Also expected are changes to pensions and a possible spending slowdown for other welfare payments.

Big Pharma talks up Trans Pacific Partnership but profits trump patients

Date April 17, 2015 - 12:00AM

Deborah Gleeson and Pat Neuwelt

The pharmaceutical industry wants higher profits through longer monopolies and less-regulated markets.
The American business community's spin machine has gone into overdrive as the finish line for the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations come into view. One of the more over-the-top examples of recent hype is an open love letter to the TPP posted on an American industry lobby  website just before Valentine's Day.
The love letter, posted on the Global Intellectual Property Centre website, seems at first glance simply harmless (though certainly charmless) hyperbole. But in amongst phrases like "I'd be a fool not to cross the Pacific for you" is a demand that strikes fear into the hearts of those concerned with access to affordable medicines. What the pharmaceutical industry is proposing is that it be provided with12 years of absolute monopoly – seven years longer than the current data protection period in Australia – during which  it can charge whatever the market will bear.

Surfing the budget's ebbs and flows

A tale of three treasurers.
Current Treasurer Joe Hockey, last Friday, gave the Financial Review an extensive interview. He had lots to say on the budget, tax reform and the economy. In modern terms, it was relatively free of repeated cliches, of framing everything in terms of the Labor Party, and remarkably frank about just how difficult the budget task now is. It is often impossible to get every bit of a long interview into print in context but the following exchange is worth recording in full.
Tingle: Can I bring you back to the budget for a moment? I understand what you're saying about the surplus and not wanting to put a date on [a return to surplus] but there has been a deterioration in the bottom line, heavily driven by revenue write-downs, since [the pre-election economic and fiscal outlook].
Hockey: Yes.
Tingle: Are you envisaging that there will actually be a further deterioration this time and/or that you will be able to forecast a swing into smaller deficits within the next four years?

Apparent Budget Leaks.

Tony Abbott pledges to protect our superannuation: No changes during his term of government and beyond

  • Simon Benson National Political Editor
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • April 16, 2015 12:00AM

Hockey and Costello at odds over tax

TONY Abbott has ruled out any changes to superannuation in this term of government or beyond, allaying fears self-funded retirees would be in the sights of federal Cabinet’s razor gang.
The Prime Minister yesterday killed off any plans to go after high-income earners over super tax concessions following suggestions the government was considering changes in the Budget.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has recently called for bipartisan support for a review of the tax concession arrangements for super contributions for high-income earners.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg rules out superannuation changes in budget

Date April 19, 2015 - 12:15AM

Judith Ireland

National political reporter

Major superannuation changes have been ruled out by the Abbott government, just weeks ahead of the federal budget, further limiting options to rein in the estimated $45 billion deficit for 2014-15.
This comes on the back of Coalition promises to not change negative gearing and the GST, as well as a tumbling iron ore price, making the budget repair job even tougher.

Health Budget Issues.

Health programs will continue


April 12, 2015, 9:30 p.m.
Funding will remain for GP Access After Hours under the new system.
GP Access After Hours  as well as mental health care and co-ordination programs will continue to be funded under the federal government’s new Primary Health Network system.
Minister for Health Sussan Ley on Saturday announced Hunter Medicare Local and its partners had been successful in a bid to operate the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network, which will replace Medicare Local from July 1.
Hunter Medicare Local will be part of a consortium with the New England and Central Coast medicare locals and the Hunter New England and Central Coast local health districts to run the new network.
The 61 national government funded Medicare Locals set up by Labor will be replaced by 30 Primary Health Networks.

Budget 2015/16: To fund or cut health?

13 Apr 2015
By Shadow Minister for Health, Catherine King.
WHILE THE PUBLIC OUTRAGE and political fight over the 2014 budget has been dominated by the GP Tax, other changes made to health in that budget are every bit as damaging.
Principally among these was the decision to abandon Labor’s agreement with the states to fund 50 per cent of growth in the efficient price of hospital based activity over the next decade.
In March’s Intergenerational report, this was the single biggest contribution to the savings claimed by the Abbott Government and yet, it is a complete fraud.
The growth in hospital costs will not magically be lowered by declaring that, from 2017, the federal government’s share of hospital spending will grow each year in line with inflation and not by the 6 per cent or more that is the actual cost of running hospitals.

Primary Health Networks announced for July 1 go live

The Australian government has announced the winning tenders in the $900 million Primary Heath Networks scheme, which is set to roll out on July 1, 2015.
The 31 Primary Health Networks (PHN) are designed to replace the previous government’s Medicare Locals, said Health Minister Sussan Ley, in a statement. The PHNs will be outcome focused, she said, with the intent of improving frontline services and to create a better alignment with state Local Hospital Networks to ensure better integration between primary and acute services.
“By aligning PHNs with state Local Hospital Networks we also aim to reduce the merry-go-round for many patients with chronic or complex conditions between primary care and hospital treatment,” said Ley.

Private health insurers win prized stake in GP care; academics, opposition warn of conflict of interest

By medical reporter Sophie Scott
April 14, 2015, 7:08 am
Private health insurers will work directly with GPs and hospitals for the first time, running programs with the aim of keeping patients healthy.
The Federal Government has announced the winners of the 28 new "primary health networks" which will receive up to $900 million in government funds.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said the networks, which replace Medicare Locals, would improve frontline services for patients and better coordination between hospitals and GPs.
But Labor's health spokeswoman Catherine King called it "a deeply disturbing move".

Medical rebate overhaul could recoup lost savings from ditched co-payment

Government expected to announce audit of fees paid to doctors for performing medical services
Lenore Taylor Political editor
The Abbott government is considering a major overhaul of the rebates it pays doctors for each medical treatment as a means of winning back budget savings lost when it ditched the Medicare co-payment.
Guardian Australia understands health minister Sussan Ley is likely to announce a comprehensive audit of the fees the government pays for each medical service under the medical benefits schedule.
The move could again put the government on a collision course with doctors. It is unlikely to be completed in time for this year’s budget, but estimates of savings from scaling back on unnecessary tests and low value services run to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Leaked mental health review is scathing of system's shortcomings and calls for $1b funding shift to community care

Date April 14, 2015 - 6:00PM

Amy Corderoy

Health Editor, Sydney Morning Herald

A radical overhaul of mental health treatment and funding in Australia has been proposed in a leaked review that also says the government should remove $1 billion of mental health funding from state and territory hospitals and redirect it into community care from 2017.
But within hours of the summary of the National Mental Health Commission report being released on Tuesday the government had rejected suggestions it would be cutting money from the state and territories' already cash-strapped psychiatric hospitals, although it said it was still considering the other recommendations of the report. 
The report says the government should also commit to halving the number of people who suicide by 50 per cent over the next decade, and is highly critical of the way mental health care is delivered across the nation, saying it is designed around what works for the system rather than what works for people.

Call for overhaul of Medicare payments for diabetes patients

Date April 15, 2015 - 12:15AM

Dan Harrison

Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent

Medicare payments should be overhauled to improve care for patients with diabetes and other chronic diseases, a panel of experts has recommended.
In a discussion paper to be launched by Health Minister Sussan Ley on Wednesday, the Abbott government's national diabetes strategy advisory group say the current Medicare payment model, in which doctors get most of their income from fees paid for each patient visit, is "unlikely to lead to optimal outcomes".
"The fee-for-service model does not incentivise long-term follow-up or the proactive care of people with chronic conditions," the paper says.
The group, comprising experts from health groups, universities, research institutes and the public service, calls on the government to experiment with different payment models, which combine fee-for-service payments with other payments based on performance and patient characteristics.

Alternative Medicare funding model proposed by Royal Australian College of GPs

Date April 15, 2015 - 2:00PM

Dan Harrison

Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent

Doctors have presented Health Minister Sussan Ley with a blueprint for Medicare reform that pays GPs extra to treat complex patients, provide comprehensive services, and co-ordinate care between different healthcare providers.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners delivered its proposals to Ms Ley on Wednesday.
A range of new payments would replace existing Practice Incentive Payments and Service Incentive Payments under the plan.
Under the proposal, as well as receiving fees for services, doctors would receive a loading for treating indigenous patients, patients of low socio-economic status and elderly patients and for operating in rural areas.

Sussan Ley rules out redirecting $1bn from hospitals to mental health services

Federal health minister dismisses recommendation made in leaked government-commissioned review into Australia’s mental health services
The federal health minister, Sussan Ley, has ruled out redirecting $1bn from inpatient hospital care to community mental health services, as a leaked government-commissioned review had proposed.
Before the 2013 election, the Coalition committed to a comprehensive review of mental health services, which has since been carried out by the National Mental Health Commission.
Its report, which focuses on what the commonwealth can do to improve access to mental health care, was delivered to the government in November but has not been made public.

AMA hospital report card gives states fuel for fight

Joe Kelly

Tony Abbott will face heightened pressure to reverse cuts of $80 billion to health and education, with a snapshot of public hospital performance handing the states fresh ammunition to press home their case.
The public hospital “report card”, produced by the Australian Medical Association, shows that every state or territory failed to meet the target of having 80 per cent of emergency department presentations seen within clinic­ally recommended triage times.
Premiers and chief ministers, led by NSW Premier Mike Baird, will meet today in Canberra ahead of the Council of Australian Governments meeting to prepare to confront the Prime Minister tomorrow on the cuts to education and health.

Doctors' group predicts health funding crisis unless federal cuts are reversed

Australian Medical Association public hospital report card shows beds are not keeping pace with population growth and benchmarks are not being met
Lenore Taylor Political editor
Public hospitals are facing a future funding crisis after deep federal government cuts, the Australian Medical Association has warned, boosting the state premiers’ case as they demand the prime minister, Tony Abbott, reverse reductions in health spending in last year’s budget.
The AMA’s annual public hospital report card has found public hospital beds are not keeping pace with population growth and demand, elective surgery waiting times are not improving and emergency department waiting times are improving only slightly and remain below a national target.

Cancer patients lose free lifesaving drugs

  • The Australian
  • April 16, 2015 12:00AM
Drug companies are scrapping free access to breakthrough cancer treatments as the time ­between product registration and full approval blows out, potentially risking the lives of thousands of patients.
Novartis Oncology, the cancer division of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, will no longer provide free access to new drugs that, ­despite having Therapeutic Goods Administration approval, are not listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Roche, which is the largest supplier of oncology drugs in Australia, including breast cancer drugs Herceptin and Kadcyla, has confirmed to The Australian that it recently adopted a new policy for providing early access to medicines not yet publicly funded, with most patients now required to pay part of the costs.

AMA warns of hospital funding 'perfect storm' that will lengthen waiting lists

Date April 16, 2015 - 12:15AM

Dan Harrison

Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent

Doctors are warning of a "perfect storm" in public hospitals as federal government funding cuts take effect, forcing patients to wait even longer for emergency treatment and elective surgery.
The Australian Medical Association will on Thursday use its annual report card on public hospital performance to warn of the impact of the cuts, which will be discussed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and state and territory leaders when they meet in Canberra on Friday.
The Abbott government is booking savings of $57 billion over 10 years as a result of dismantling the hospital funding system put in place by Labor, which was based on growth in demand and costs, and from 2017 is moving to a new system in which the Commonwealth's contribution to hospitals is adjusted only for population growth and inflation as measured by the consumer price index.

Fifty jobs at risk: Medicare Local loses bid


April 15, 2015, 7 a.m.
SIGNIFICANT job losses are likely after the axing of Moruya’s Southern NSW Medicare Local.
The service has failed in its bid to become a national Primary Health Network in a federal shake-up of the sector.
The Government announced last year it would replace Medicare Locals with the networks, forcing services to compete in a tender process.
Staff at the Moruya-based service learned this week their bid had failed, with the contract going to an Illawarra-Shoalhaven consortium.

Sussan Ley denies budget cuts will open hospital 'black hole'

By political correspondent Emma Griffiths
April 16, 2015
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley has rejected criticism from the nation's peak medical group that Commonwealth budget cuts will open up a multi-billion dollar "black hole" for hospitals.
In two years, about $50 billion will be stripped from hospital funding, as the Abbott Government locks the rate of spending growth to inflation and population growth.
Hospitals have already been hit by a $1.8 billion cut in last year's budget as earlier funding agreements were scrapped.
In its snapshot of public hospital performance, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said the system was not coping with the demands and warned the situation would worsen with less funding.

Mental health - a crisis-driven system in crisis

Date April 16, 2015 - 11:45PM

Lesley Russell

For five months the Abbott government stubbornly refused to release the report from the review it commissioned, as an election commitment, to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia's mental health services. Now that report has 'fallen off the back of a truck" and we are left to wonder why all the secrecy. 
Yes, the report is a damning indictment of a patchwork of services and programs that are failing to meet the needs of Australians with mental illness and mental health problems and that deliver poor returns on the $14 billion spent annually by Commonwealth, state and territory governments. But such findings were predictable: this is the latest in a long series of reports in mental health and why commission a review if there were not recognised problems? 
So the government was presumably not hiding problems and it should not have been shirking actions in response because this report also provides solutions, a roadmap for reform. It outlines strategic directions and practical solutions within existing resources for the next two years, and then for the next decade.

Sussan Ley’s mental health redesign from ground up

Gina Rushton

Rick Morton

The mental health system is so chaotic and inefficient that it must be redesigned from the ground up, and federal Health Minister Sussan Ley will ask her state and territ­ory counterparts to become part of the solution, reviving a nation­al strategy that has previously floundered.
Ms Ley released the National Mental Health Commission’s 700-page report into the system yesterday and said although it painted a “disturbing” picture of the current system, it provided a way forward.
The report details a $10 billion system — most of that money is spent on welfare payments for the mentally ill — which fails people at every turn, whether they are visiti­ng their GP, attempting to access community support or living in regional and remote areas.

Trust over health funding flatlines

  • April 17, 2015 4:38PM
  • Karlis Sana
  • AAP
THE Abbott government has been accused of being disingenuous in its commitment to improving mental health services, with state health ministers saying broken funding agreements mean there is now a deficit of trust.
STATE and territory health ministers will work with the federal government on a national approach to mental health, agreeing at a COAG Health Council meeting in Sydney on Friday to develop a coordinated strategy within the next 12 months.
The meeting comes after the release of a major review of Australia's mental health services, which revealed a chaotic and inefficient system that constantly fails the mentally ill.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said on Friday she welcomed the renewed effort among the various jurisdictions to come up with a national mental health plan "that will be lasting".

RACGP proposes 10 new ways to fund general practice

16 April, 2015 Amanda Davey
The RACGP has released its vision of a new funding system for general practice.
It  includes replacing practice and service incentive payments (PIPs and SIPs) with more targeted payments aimed at both the practitioner and the practice.
This is because PIPs and SIPs are “misaligned and not achieving what they are designed to deliver”, says the RACGP's  working document,  Vision for a sustainable health system.

Pharmacy Issues.

Public may pay for pharmacy deregulation

15 April, 2015 Meg Pigram
The true public cost of pharmacy deregulation has been now been revealed, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia believes.
In a doorstop interview this morning, Professor Ian Harper, lead author of the Federal government’s recently released Competition Policy Review says Australian patients may have to pay a levy on medicines because of the impact of de-regulation on the pharmacy sector.
“In other words, consumers might be hit with a new tax on medicines to fund the closure of their local pharmacy,” a Guild spokesperson said in response to Professor Harper’s comments.
The Guild said in a statement that they provided the Harper Review Panel with research to suggest the necessary of the current pharmacy model, and any de-regulation will have huge economic loss.

Pharmacists wary of more competition

Greek Australian pharmacists aren't happy at calls to deregulate their industry in the hopes it will encourage more competition
15 Apr 2015
Helen Velissaris
Calls to deregulate Australian pharmacies to increase competition haven't been met with much support from Greek Australian pharmacists.
An audit conducted by the National Commission of Audit to the Government on the state of the pharmacy industry has suggested removing or softening the location and ownership laws to give consumers more choice.
Currently, the government's location rules prohibit another pharmacy opening 1.5 kilometres from an existing one.
It also prohibits non-pharmacists from owning a pharmacy, meaning only pharmacists may own, run and operate the business.
I also have to say reading all the articles I still have no idea what is actually going to happen with the 2016 Budget (or the Government) at the end of the day.
Nonetheless I am sure there will be lots of fun to observe over the next few weeks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Productivity Commissions Report released yesterday is clearly timed to support budget announcements.

Did you see in today's media the Pharmacy Guild has established a $54 million fighting fund to help it preserve its monopolistic iron grip across the community pharmacy sector.