AHHA welcomes funding agreement; more support needed for primary care

05 April, 2016

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has welcomed the funding agreement reached by the states and the Commonwealth at a recent meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

"The additional $2.9 billion in funding from 2017-2020 is a welcome partial turnaround from the $57 billion cuts to health funding imposed in the 2014 Budget. The AHHA strongly supports the ongoing commitment to activity-based funding and the national efficient price, particularly in the context of greater focus on improving safety, quality and efficiency, and reducing preventable hospitalisations," AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said.

"We call on the state, territory and Commonwealth governments to proceed carefully in their continuing deliberations on tax reform. There must be national consistency in the capacity of the states and territories to fund health into the future. However taxes are raised, health system funding must be durable and sustainable, ensuring accessible and equitable care for all Australians.

"While the improved support for hospital funding until 2020 has provided some relief for the health sector, the Prime Minister’s unveiling earlier of the Healthier Medicare package highlights funding challenges in the primary care sector which remain unaddressed.

"The allocation of $21 million (or around $300 per person targeted in this program) in additional funding for this package is simply not enough to deliver the promised reforms. The proposal to withhold $70 million per annum in hospital funding from the states to pay for the Turnbull Government’s Healthier Medicare chronic disease reform package will not provide sufficient additional funding, nor is it a satisfactory solution unless there is clear evidence of a reduction in hospitalisations," Verhoeven said.

"We urge the government to consider other options for funding the welcome measures of Healthier Medicare, including drawing the money from the Medical Research Future Fund to support and evaluate the trials. Further work also needs to be progressed urgently to ensure the Medicare Benefits Schedule meets contemporary requirements."

"The focus of COAG today on a number of additional matters is also welcomed by the health sector, including acknowledgement of the disproportionally high incarceration rates for Indigenous Australians, the need to reduce violence against women and their children, streamlining of NDIS decision-making, redress for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, and facilitation of patient access to medicinal cannabis," said Verhoeven. 

"Ongoing work in these areas will contribute to better health outcomes for many vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians, and assist COAG in achieving its priority of universal health care for all Australians."