Fresh attack launched at 'killer' Budget by key health lobby group

07 August, 2014

An extraordinary attack has been launched at the coalition's Federal Budget funding cuts by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), with the lobby group labelling it an inequitable one based on "dollars rather than economics".

Cuts to funding for prevention and primary health care are "both regressive and short-sighted", PHAA has said in an editorial published on Wednesday (6 August) the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

"Rather than a quick death, this is a budget that is so inequitable it will invariably mean those who are less well-off will be even worse off. Nowhere will this have more impact than on the poor," said Michael Moore, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the PHAA.

"A headlong drive for a surplus was applied, when the alternative framework using Australia's Triple A credit rating could have benefited the whole community."

Additional cuts, cost-shifting, additional co-payments

Moore said: "Almost $8.6 billion was proposed to be cut from the Health Budget over four years. This budget diminished further the investment in public health and prevention, already a poor 2.2 per cent of the total health budget.

"The attacks on prevention and primary health care may not be deliberate but simply fit into a part of a broader process of cost-shifting, and responsibility to the States and Territories.

"This Budget saw cuts to Indigenous Affairs programs (exceeding $121 million over four years), dental health programs ($635 million over four years), the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health (exceeding $367 million over four years) and the Partners in Recovery mental health initiative ($54 million over two years).

"The $7 co-payment for GP visits, out-of-hospital pathology and diagnostic imaging services was a regressive measure, creating barriers to primary care access for disadvantaged Australians and increasing burdens on hospitals.

"Also undermining good primary health care in the long term is a $5 co-payment for PBS-listed medicines, the abolition of the National Preventive Health Agency, General Practice Education and Training Limited and the Australian Medicare Local Alliance.

"The Federal Budget was a 'killer' in multiple ways and will be for many years to come. And this is only considering the health cuts.

"Cuts in social welfare, Indigenous programs, education funding and the environment portfolio will have major ramifications for health outcomes into the future."