Consult across the sector on Medicare, health minister urged

09 February, 2015

The federal government is not learning from mistakes of the past with its continued "narrow consultation" on Medicare reforms, health lobby groups have said.

The government should come to realise its policy driven by politics – not evidence – has unintended and negative consequences, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) and the Victorian Healthcare Association (VHA) have said in a joint statement.

AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said the government needs to include public hospitals and other health service providers in discussions to gain a holistic view of the health sector and understand how to best tackle issues.

"When it comes to the conversation on Medicare reform, more people need to be invited to the table so that the government has a wider understanding of how proposed changes will impact on patients and providers," Verhoeven said.

"I urge the government not to keep making the same mistakes and, instead, take the time to consider the broad spectrum of stakeholders and conduct meaningful consultation."

Government's Senate 'admission'

The statements follow the Department of Health's admission last week (5 February) at a Senate committee that it failed to undertake in-depth analysis or research on the impact of the recently-shelved GP co-payment.

Referring to the admission, Victorian Healthcare Association Acting Chief Executive Tom Symondson said it was time to refocus any reforms on improving quality and efficiency of healthcare across the system, rather than cost-shifting between GPs and consumers.

"Both the GP co-payment and the attempt to cut the Medicare rebate were overly-simplistic attempts by the Commonwealth government to reform health funding without thinking about the relationship between primary and acute care," Symondson said.

"Reform strategies must examine what such changes mean for the whole system – hospitals and health services, clinicians and consumers – and how they will improve the accessibility and quality of healthcare.

"Given the first two failed attempts at reform, the government now has an opportunity to start again and follow due process this time around. This means consulting widely, including with representatives of the hospitals and health services sector, and calling upon its resources and available data to provide a platform of evidence for any reform of Medicare."