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Time for strategic vision and leadership for health: AHHA

12 July, 2016

All options should be on table as we reconsider health funding that delivers affordable care with equity of access.

"A re-elected Turnbull Government must show strong and strategic leadership to ensure our world-class health system is able to provide care for all Australians, regardless of where they live or how much money they have. This is a clear message from the very tight election result," said Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

In congratulating the Coalition Government on its re-election, Verhoeven said, "While the Coalition's recent health initiatives have made some amends for the damaging cuts in the 2014 Budget, some policies continue to exacerbate issues of access, equity and sustainability."

"Strong and strategic leadership is needed from the Commonwealth as the steward of Australia's health system and this requires effective partnership with state and territory governments. It also requires listening and working collaboratively with all health stakeholders, not just select groups.

"Australia has a high quality health system delivering world-class health outcomes for many, but for some groups, health outcomes are poor. As the population ages, rates of chronic disease increase and consumer demand grows, the health system is under increasing pressure.

"With a number of review processes underway, the Turnbull Government must ensure its health system reforms are innovative, patient-centred, sustainable and adequately funded, evidence-based and data-informed, and must look beyond siloed issues and consider their impacts on the broader health system."

"A number of primary care reform packages, for example in chronic disease, mental health and drugs and addictions, underscore the vital role Primary Health Networks (PHNs) play in implementing the Commonwealth's reform agenda."

"It is essential that PHNs are provided with appropriate long-term, flexible funding and operational support to enable them to address the needs of their communities and develop innovative solutions to promote better health outcomes. Simply providing PHNs with extra responsibilities but no additional operational resourcing is unsustainable."

"Adequate primary care funding, linked to quality of care, is required to address the growing burden of chronic disease. The Turnbull Government's Health Care Homes trial needs appropriate resourcing and an overriding focus on quality outcomes to be truly effective. A properly-resourced chronic disease strategy would help millions of Australians improve their quality of life, and provide economic benefits by reducing the impact of chronic disease on the workforce."

"While bulk-billing rates for GP services are currently relatively high, they are not an accurate measure of affordability or inequality in the health system, and the current Medicare freeze in general practice disproportionately impacts the viability of services provided to many of our most vulnerable people."

"The short-term reversals of decisions likely to impact bulkbilling of pathology and imaging services have focused on service provider viability and profits, and do not provide long-term assurance. The affordability of these services for consumers must be the priority."

"While public hospitals have temporary funding support until 2020, securing a post-2020 agreement focused on innovation, better system integration and quality outcomes for consumers will require Commonwealth leadership and genuine, bi-partisan partnerships with the states and territories. A long-term accord between the Commonwealth and the states and territories would be a positive step forward.

"Australia spends less on public health and prevention than most OECD countries, and our increasing burden of chronic disease intensifies the need for investment in evidence-based preventive health strategies. Longstanding support for preventive action on immunisation and tobacco has shown how successful preventive care can be in improving the health of Australians.

"Information technology structures in place to support Medicare, universal healthcare and the health data housed within are critical infrastructure. The Turnbull Government must provide clarity on its vision for maintaining and securing these national assets, and how it will make more strategic use of this data to better inform health policy."

The AHHA calls on the re-elected Turnbull Government to commit to a long-term vision for healthcare, including the provision of appropriate funding commitments to support primary, acute, aged and disability care, to ensure all Australians can access quality care regardless of their income or where they live.

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