Thursday, June 11, 2015

2016 Budget - Labor Backs Down On Some Saving Measures - But A Lot Of Pain Remains For Government As More Analysis Is Done.

June 11 Edition
Budget Night was May 12, 2015.
Since then the selling has been at full throttle and we have all gradually come to grips with what it means for all sorts of groups. The selling process now seems over and we are into the hard graft of getting what is proposed through the parliament.
Our Treasurer is calling people who say we have some economic problems  ‘clowns’ which is a clear sign we have some serious issues ahead. As far as his comments on first home buyers I will let you form your own view!
Labor has decided to give the Government some savings but I suspect most of the others they will really resist.
Here is some of the recent analysis.

General Budget Issues.

Hockey's return to surplus not credible

Date May 31, 2015 - 11:00PM

Ross Gittins

There's an obvious question mark over this year's budget that the media have yet to highlight: how could the Treasurer announce so many giveaways and backdowns but still claim that "our timetable back to a budget surplus is unchanged from last year"?
That's even harder to believe when you remember the $52 billion by which Joe Hockey has had to write down his expected tax collections, thanks to greater-than-forecast falls in commodity prices and slower-than-expected growth in wages.
The short answer is that Hockey is stretching the truth, creating illusions and padding his budget. And that's without questioning his forecasts and projections for the economy (as opposed to those for his budget).
In truth, his expected trajectory of the budget balance during the next decade is significantly inferior to the one he announced last year.

Families losers in budget: ANU analysis

  • June 02, 2015 8:26AM
  • AAP
A SECOND independent analysis of the federal budget shows many households with children will lose disposable income.
THE Australian National University analysis, which adopted "conservative assumptions", found that changes to family tax benefits are unlikely to be offset by what the government says are second-round positive impacts, such as its childcare package and increased employment prospects.

New plan to curtail negative gearing would help the budget, cool property market

Date June 7, 2015 - 12:15AM

Adam Gartrell

The federal government could raise an extra $42 billion in revenue over the next 10 years under a new plan to curtail negative gearing and cool surging property prices in Sydney and Melbourne.
The respected Parliamentary Budget Office has crunched the numbers to find out how much money would flow into government coffers if negative gearing was scrapped for new residential investments.
The budget office did the sums for the Australian Greens, who want the extra revenue to pay for more affordable housing to help the homeless and vulnerable.
Negative gearing allows investors to use losses made on property investments to reduce their overall taxable income. About 1.3 million Australians use the concession to minimise their tax, so the major political parties have long been reluctant to wind it back.

Federal budget 2015: hit to family payments to reach $84 per week

Date June 2, 2015 - 7:24PM

Peter Martin

The budget will cost a two-parent family with two primary school children on $60,000 around $84 per week, a new analysis reveals.
Prepared by independent experts at the Australian National University and dealing only with the changes to family payments, its findings broadly back those of modelling conducted commissioned by the Labor Party from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling.
The Centre found families with children on the lowest incomes would bear the brunt of the cuts in the Coalition's first two budgets, while high income families would see their disposable incomes rise slightly over the next four years.
The analysis from academics Peter Whiteford and Daniel Nethery limits itself to the changes to family tax benefits confirmed in this year's budget.

Economy doubters are clowns, says Joe Hockey

David Uren

Hockey says economy broadens and grows

Joe Hockey has slammed those doubting the strength of the Australian economy as “clowns” after soaring resource exports and the housing boom delivered the best GDP growth in a year.
The Treasurer hailed the 0.9 per cent growth in the March quarter, saying it showed that “the Australian economy is, in the last quarter, one of the fastest-growing economies in the developed world.”
“How good is that?” he asked, adding that last month’s budget would build further growth ­momentum. The annual growth rate now stands at 2.3 per cent, ­according to the Australian ­Bureau of Statistics. The growth is in line with the budget’s economic estimates, however there will need to be a big lift in wages and company profits if the forecast recovery in budget revenue is to be achieved over the year ahead.

Samantha Maiden: Single-income and sole-parent families hardest hit by family tax cuts

  • The Sunday Telegraph
  • June 07, 2015 12:00AM
WHEN Scott Morrison ­appeared on Today after the federal Budget, the opening salvo from Lisa Wilkinson was “what have you got against stay-at-home mothers?”
Nothing, was his answer.
Like most cabinet ministers who have enjoyed raising a family without taking time out of the workforce, Morrison’s a big, big fan.
Having a stay-at-home parent is almost a necessity for federal politicians with young families given the travel and long hours involved.
But while the impact of Morrison’s new work activity test on stay-at-home mothers seeking childcare have been lightly canvassed, there are far bigger blows to the single breadwinner model in the federal Budget.

Health Budget Issues.

  • May 31 2015 at 3:58 PM
  • Updated 27 mins ago

Fat health premiums cast cloud over Medibank

by Tim Binsted
As Medibank Private ramps up its advertising campaign for the key winter selling period, Morgan Stanley analyst Daniel Toohey has tipped the stock to trade well below its listing price as customers downgrade their cover and competitors muscle in.
Last year institutional investors were offered shares in Medibank's $5.7 billion float, the biggest privatisation since Telstra, at $2.15 while mum-and-dad investors were able to buy at $2. 
But Mr Toohey thinks the private health insurer's stock is worth less than the Abbott government sold it for at just $1.85.
"The impact of rising lapse rates, growth in the lower-premium ahm brand, challenges to reigniting growth in the core Medibank brand and rising demand elasticity [increased customer price sensitivity] are testing Medibank's top-line resilience," Mr Toohey said.

Sussan Ley proposes new talks with states on health funding

Sean Parnell

Health Minister Sussan Ley has written to her state and territory counterparts proposing fresh talks on public hospital funding, more than a year after the Abbott government slashed billions of dollars in future funding promised by Labor.
Having dumped the GP co-payment, finalised drug and pharmacy reforms, and initiated a Medicare probe and primary care review she described as the “cornerstone of future policy development,” the minister sought last week to engage the states in hospital talks.
Asked whether that meant 2016 would be an implementation year for the reforms arising from several reviews, or simply the year the Coalition asked voters to support new health policies, Ms Ley said she did not intend to stand still in the portfolio.

Hospitals to lose if veterans’ care lacking

Sean Parnell

Private hospitals will be compelled to focus on quality care after one of their major funders, the Department of Veterans’ ­Affairs, declared it would no longer pay for serious mistakes and complications.
As health funds push for an indust­ry-wide effort to spend money more wisely, the DVA has put hospitals on notice that, for the first time, its annual $1.6 billion-plus spending will be contingent on ex-servicemen and women being treated effectively and efficiently.
In sector briefings, the department has made clear its next round of contracts will specify that hospitals not be paid if veterans suffer any of eight sentinel events, such as surgery on the wrong body part or a suicide in an in-patient unit.

Type 2 diabetes may go unmonitored as test strips removed from PBS

Sean Parnell

About 500,000 Australians with type 2 diabetes will lose unfettered access to subsidised blood-sugar test strips after Health Minister Sussan Ley took expert advice that they were being wasted.
In a decision that will save taxpayers $146.3 million over four years, diabetics who are not insulin dependent and have their blood-glucose levels under control will be allowed only a six-month supply of test strips on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
It follows a recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which met to discuss the review in August 2013 and agreed there was limited evidence that self-monitoring of blood glucose improved blood-glucose control, quality of life or long-term complications in people with type 2 diabetes who were not using insulin.

Medical system needs kiss of life

Judith Sloan

I am wondering whether the nickname of Health Minister Sussan Ley should be Big ­Spender. Because the only thing she seems to be able to achieve is to spend more of other people’s — aka taxpayers’ — money.
Here’s a tip: don’t outsource health policy to the Australian Medical Association. It’s a highway to more inefficiency and waste. At the end of the day, there will be no grateful pats on the back for the government. There will simply be more shrill requests to fund the AMA’s pet projects.
With less than 30 per cent of medical practitioners being members of the AMA, the government can afford to give the org­anisation a relatively wide berth and to seek advice from several groups representing the medical profession.
In fact, while the minister is out and about undertaking consultation, she should listen to the groups that represent other healthcare professionals.

Medicare review draws on broad expertise

Sean Parnell

Private health executives, the head of a chain of medical clinics, state and federal bureaucrats and academics will sit alongside the doctors and patient advocates reviewing Medicare rebates and the broader structure of primary care.
Health Minister Sussan Ley will today announce the membership of the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce, set to scrutinise 5500 item numbers, and the Primary Health Care Advisory Group charged with reforming primary health.
Ms Ley, who wants to make better use of the existing health budget and workforce, has ­described the reviews as the “cornerstone of future policy ­development”. She expects recommendations by the end of the year, by which time new Primary Health Networks will be in place, a new pharmacy agreement ­operational, and other service delivery reviews in need of a ­response.

Future of healthcare sector marred by funding

Sarah-Jane Tasker

Funding is the largest inhibitor to achieving a more positive future for the healthcare sector, Australian professionals have warned.
An extensive global study by Polycom has found that 43 per cent of Australian healthcare professionals surveyed were concerned about funding, which was similar to the global response of 41 per cent.
Australian professionals also raised concern about the advancement of technology, with 43 per cent agreeing that government policy was not adequately keeping up with healthcare innovation.
The full report will be released later this year but some of the findings, to be released today, revealed that only 5 per cent of Australian healthcare professionals believed the government was keeping pace with innovation, while the global outlook was slightly more positive at 13 per cent.

Medical Research Fund

Labor says Medical Research Future Fund could be diverted for 'pet projects'

Date June 4, 2015 - 6:19PM

Dan Harrison

Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent

The Abbott government could raid its Medical Research Future Fund to pay for election promises and "pet projects" under proposals before Federal Parliament, Labor says.
When it was originally announced in May 2014, budget documents said the earnings from the fund, which are expected to reach $1 billion a year by 2020, would be directed to medical research, "primarily by boosting funding for the National Health and Medical Research Council".
But when legislation to set up the fund was introduced to Parliament last week, it did not give the NHMRC any role in deciding which projects would be funded. The legislation gives the finance minister, the Treasurer and the health minister discretion over how the funds are used.
Speaking on the bill in Parliament on Thursday, Labor's health spokeswoman Catherine King said it could create "another government slush fund".

Medical Research Future Fund branded a $20 billion ‘government slush fund’

June 4, 2015 7:20pm
Sue Dunlevy News Corp Australia Network
THE troubled Medical Research Future Fund has been rubbished by Labor as a $20 billion political “slush fund” now its rules have been revealed.
The body funded by $20 billion in cuts to health programs was meant to start in January but legislation to set it up was only introduced into federal parliament yesterday.
Last year the government said the independent National Health and Medical Research Council would decide who got the money, now the government will set up an expert government advisory committee.

Medicare Locals

Medicare Locals closure to cost $112 million

Date June 1, 2015 - 9:30PM

Dan Harrison

Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent

The Abbott government will spend up to $112 million to close the 61 Medicare Locals established by the former Labor government.
Despite Tony Abbott declaring during the 2013 election campaign that "we are not shutting any Medicare Locals," the 61 Medicare Locals, which were set up by Labor to plan and coordinate local health services, will cease operation at the end of the month.
They will be replaced by 31 "Primary Health Networks" which will perform a similar role.
Health department First Assistant Secretary Mark Booth told a Senate hearing on Monday that the cost of wrapping up the Medicare Locals, including expenses such as staff redundancies and penalties for breaking leases, could be up to $112 million.

Pharmacy Issues.

Crackdown on chemists’ funding

The Pharmacy Guild’s longstanding control over lucrative government-funded industry programs is under threat, with the contract to be opened to tender for the first time.
While the powerful lobby group was declared a winner out of the federal government’s pharmaceutical reforms unveiled last week, the new five-year agreement with the pharmacy industry boasts tough accountability measures not seen under previous arrangements.
Health Minister Sussan Ley told The Australian that new measures written in to the sixth community pharmacy agreement, worth $18.9 billion over five years, were in direct response to the Australian National Audit ­Office’s report on the previous ­industry agreement struck by Labor in 2010. The audit, released in April, found a lack of transparency and accountability made it difficult to ascertain whether taxpayers were receiving value from the deal, which effectively remunerates Australia’s 5400-plus retail pharmacies for their dispensing role in the medicines supply chain.

The $5 medicine price hike — is it on or off? It depends who you ask

June 1, 2015
Sue Dunlevy
News Corp Australia Network
CONFUSION is mounting over the fate of a $5 prescription medicine price hike with the Assistant Health Minister contradicting the minister’s claims the government won’t go ahead with it.
The measure, introduced in last year’s budget to save $1.3 billion, was included again in last month’s budget.
However, nine days after the budget Health Minister Sussan Ley said she wasn’t going to go ahead with it.
“I am not going to waste time putting things through the parliament that are going to be voted down by my colleagues,” she told reporters.
However, quizzed about the price rise Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash told Senate estimates committee today: the “policy hasn’t changed”.

Minister confirms drug co-payment remains

  • By Belinda Merhab
  • AAP
  • June 02, 2015 11:59AM
A FEDERAL government proposal to impose a $5 co-payment for prescription drugs remains on the table.
ASSISTANT Health Minister Fiona Nash created confusion on Monday when she told a Senate committee the proposal remained government policy, despite Health Minister Sussan Ley having backed away from the plan.
Senator Nash clarified the issues when she appeared before the committee again on Tuesday.
"The savings won't come off the table until a replacement measure is found and so therefore, the measure remains on the table," she said.

Why you’ll be paying more for prescription medicines

  • June 02, 2015 1:25PM
  • Sue Dunlevy
EVERY prescription medicine that costs less than $36 could cost consumers more under a secret bombshell hidden in the new pharmacy agreement signed with chemists last week.
The Health Department has revealed 50 per cent of medicines could cost more from next month as a result of a new $3.49 new handling fee paid to chemists that replaces a 15 per cent mark up.
The price rises will affect nine of the 10 most-prescribed medicines in Australia including the anti-cholesterol pills atorvastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin, blood pressure medicines perindopril and irbesartan, and the diabetes medicine metformin.
Thousands of other medicines including antibiotics, osteoporosis medicine alendronate, depression medicine fluoxetine, arthritis drug meloxicam and breast cancer drug tamoxifen will also be hit.

Guild on notice over 6CPA fund boost

2 June, 2015 Chris Brooker
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says it welcomes alterations to the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement terms that invite tenders to oversee agreement programs.
The Department of Health has taken recommendations made by the Australian National Audit Office report into the 5CPA into account when drafting the new agreement.
This report, tabled in March, was critical of a number of aspects of the 5CPA process and oversight mechanisms.
In response to a report in The Australian that claims there has been a “crackdown on chemists’ funding” a Guild spokesperson said they welcomed moves to increase program accountability and iron out flaws identified by the ANAO report.  

Common medicines could cost more under pharmacy payment changes

Date June 2, 2015 - 6:55PM

Dan Harrison

Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent

Patients could pay more for many of the most commonly prescribed medicines under changes to how pharmacists are paid to dispense drugs.
But government officials say they expect competition among pharmacists to prevent prices rising for consumers.
Currently pharmacists can charge a 15 per cent mark-up on drugs costing up to $30, but from July this mark-up will be replaced by a flat fee of $3.49.
Federal health department official Felicity McNeill told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the change would make about 50 per cent of medicines more expensive for the government, while the remaining medicines would be cheaper for the government.
The new fee could only make a difference to patients without concessions when they buy medicines which cost less than the $37.70 patient contribution.
It is going to be very interesting to see what happens to the polls and consumer confidence over the next 2-3 months - especially if we see the Senate knocking more savings back as is seeming likely! Already there was a small drop in confidence last week and no improvement this week.

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