Page 245 - Week 01 - Thursday, 12 February 2015

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In addition, we have had to deal with a range of other impacts, and we have responded. We have invested more money in sport and recreation services, facilities and upgrades and more investment in our healthy weight action plan, but we should be doing this in partnership with the commonwealth government. Improving people’s lifestyles and reducing the impact of lifestyle-related disease saves everybody money—the ACT taxpayer, the federal budget, the ACT budget—through fewer people having to go to hospital.

The cessation of the national partnership agreement on improving public hospital services also warrants mention. This cessation of reward funding involved programs for the national elective surgery target, the national emergency department target and new subacute beds. This national partnership provided $56 million over all four years, and it has been lost in areas where we need it most—that is, elective surgery and access to our emergency departments. There have also been cuts in Indigenous early childhood development, although elements of this have been continued. We have seen funding deferred on adult public dental services.

These cuts come as the broader health system has been thrown into turmoil with the announcement of the $7 co-payment for visits to GPs as well as increases to co-payments for PBS medicines, pathology and diagnostic imaging. This Labor ACT government strongly disagrees with and rejects the notion that there should be co-payments for general practitioner services. This is bad policy that affects those least able to pay for their health care.

The removal of restrictions on state and territory governments from charging patients presenting to hospital emergency departments for GP-like attendances will not be actioned by the ACT. It breaks the Medicare principle of universality, of free public hospital care, and would be administratively complex and costly to administer.

Governments at a commonwealth and territory level have been working for a generation to improve access to health care for our community. We know general practice provides the benefit of establishing a long-term relationship with a healthcare provider, which is integral to achieving good health over the length of people’s lives. We are sure that efficiencies can be made, but they need to be designed in a way that is fair. The co-payment is not fair. The co-payment will not raise the level of funding to meet growing demands for health care. Instead, it will add to healthcare costs for consumers. It will reduce early intervention for those who cannot afford the out-of-pocket expenses to see a doctor.

It is worth highlighting that Australians pay and make a contribution when they go to their doctor—it is called Medicare. Contributions we all make based on how much we earn through our taxes and through the Medicare levy provide a progressive funding base for funding essential health services.

We hear the rhetoric from Joe Hockey that some people should make a contribution. Well, they do, through Medicare. Despite the rhetoric from the current commonwealth government, there is no crisis. We have low debt levels nationally and the cost to government for health care is below the OECD average. We have one of the most efficient funding bases for health care anywhere in the world.

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